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Old 10-16-2017, 02:42 PM   #81
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Playoff Time!

So thanks to MLB in their wisdom adding on some meaningless make-up games at the end of the schedule, and then adding to that the one-game playoff between MIL-MIN, we are now healthier than we've been in weeks, possibly months. I activated SS Mike Hunter during the LA series, and while he didn't (can't) yet play, he'll be completely healed by game 2 or 3 of our opening series. Good. Plus, pitchers Bobby Little and Mark Phillips came off the DL during the above stretch, leaving me with a decision to make: I have a selection of pitchers for the first time since, oh, August, which feels...strange, really. So: going with a four-man rotation, I add Little to the back end, even though he hasn't pitched since July. This could be a mistake, really, but given the massive inconsistency of our other options (Messinger, Piccirillo, Phillips), it's one I feel I have to take. Our playoff rotation is thus: Casillas, Jones, Hart, Little. Casillas and Jones have been solid all year, Hart has shown almost none of his rookie year promise, and Little hasn't pitched in three months. Good, huh? I move Piccirillo and Messinger into long relief, and leave Phillips off the playoff roster. In the field, Hunter's injury means Holguin will start at short for a game or two, but he's been good (.301, 8 HR) off the bench, and is gold in the field, so I'm not worried. Otherwise, we'll miss Wiggins (.350 in 420 AB) in right, Carillo (.301) off the bench, and Collins is nursing a sprained ankle, but his hitting is fine. Plus, we might be able to activate Wiggins for the Series, should we get that far. I think we're good to go.

......

AL WILDCARD GAME
Boston 5 - Oakland 4 ... well color me surprised. Boston made two errors and only managed five hits, but three of them came in the seventh (two doubles plus a single and a walk), when they scored three runs to take the lead. Starter-turned-closer Manny Gomez gave one back in the eighth, but squelched a two-out rally in the ninth to send the A's packing. Boston will play us next.

NL WILDCARD GAME
Cincinnati 4 - Monteal 0 ... This tilt between two pretty evenly-matched teams was a snoozer. Cincy's Robbie Collier was magnificent over seven innings, giving up just one hit and striking out fifteen. The Expos did put one on in the ninth, but too little too late. They'll get the Padres next.

......

AL DIVISIONAL SERIES, Game One
Boston (Ryan Galletto, 12-13, 4.79) @ Hawaii (Leon Casillas, 22-7, 2.70)
Hawaii 9 - Boston 2 (HAW leads 1-0) ... we start strong, taking a 5-0 lead after two, and make it 8-0 after six. Casillas gives up six hits and two unearned runs over seven innings. Dunklee has four hits and three RBI.

AL DIVISIONAL SERIES, Game Two
Boston (Mike Wiater, 5-3, 2.77) @ Hawaii (Eric Jones, 15-4, 3.24)
Hawaii 7 - Boston 5 (HAW leads 2-0) ... Jones struggles (7 hits, 5 runs--all unearned--over 4.2 innings), but we score four early and add three in the eighth to push the Sox to the brink. Groff and McArthur homer, the latter coming with one on in the eighth. Piccirillo throws three nice innings late to get the win.

AL DIVISIONAL SERIES, Game Three
Hawaii (Rob Hart, 12-11, 5.62) @ Boston (Eddy Llamas, 14-10, 4.08)
Boston 4 - Hawaii 1 (HAW leads 2-1) ... Hart gives up two home runs, one a two-run shot in the eighth, and we manage just six hits. We didn't play poorly, but now we're counting on a rusty pitcher to put this one away.

AL DIVISIONAL SERIES, Game Four
Hawaii (Bobby Little, 10-1, 4.24) @ Boston (Manny Gomez, 14-12, 4.08)
Hawaii 4 - Boston 2 (HAW wins 3-1) ... Little is HUGE, giving up just six hits and two runs over six innings. McArthur hits his third homer, and Dunklee ends the series hitting .615. McArthur is named series MVP.

ELSEWHERE:
Milwaukee defeats Baltimore 3-0 ... the Brewers continue their hot play, stunning the Orioles in a sweep. They have not yet lost in October, and will be looking to make their first World Series visit since god knows when.
Chicago defeats NY Mets 3-2 ... a fun, back-and-forth series to watch, with the Cubs taking the decider 2-1 on Chris Flock's RBI double in the thirteenth. Tough loss for the Mets, who have won 90+ games for three straight seasons and have nothing to show for it.
San Diego defeats Cincinnati 3-2 ... Another wild series, capped by a crazy game seven. Up 6-2 in the top of the eighth, the Padres gave up four runs, then two more in the ninth, to face an 8-6 deficit with the visiting Reds needing just three outs to complete the upset. Then with one out and two men on, nine-year veteran SS Israel Almendariz, owner of a solid if unspectacular career, pulls a 2-2 pitch from closer Fernando Alameda deep into the left field stands for the walk-off series win.

......

AL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, Game One
Milwaukee (Nick Shockley, 1-0, 1.13) @ Hawaii (Leon Casillas, 1-0, 0.00)
Hawaii 7 - Milwaukee 3 (HAW leads 1-0) ... Collins and Groff plate three in the first, and Hullinger's three-run blast in the fourth give Casillas a comfortable lead, and he throws seven quality innings to win his second of the playoffs.

Milwaukee (Dan Lumsden, 0-0, 2.84) @ Hawaii (Eric Jones 0-0, 0.00)
Hawaii 3 - Milwaukee 2 (HAW leads 2-0) ... We scatter seven hits and five walks across the game, and score single runs in the third, fifth, and seventh to back up Jones' two-hit effort over six. Kieffer tries to give it away by yielding a run in the eighth, but shuts things down in the ninth.

Hawaii (Rob Hart, 0-1, 5.14) @ Milwaukee (Tim Pinksen, 1-0, 1.50)
Hawaii 2 - Milwaukee 1 (HAW leads 3-0) ... Edgar Martinez wakes up with a two-run ninth inning blast to stun the Brewers late. Hart shows up, giving up six hits and a run over six innings, and Beltowski and Kieffer combine for a fairly quiet three innings of relief. Tim Pinksen gives up just five hits over 7.1 innings, but it's all for naught.

Hawaii (Bobby Little, 1-0, 3.00) @ Milwaukee (Tyler Bowman, 0-0, 0.00)
Hawaii 9 - Milwaukee 4 (HAW wins 4-0) ... Three in the first, three more in the fifth, and we never trail in this one, piling up fourteen hits. Hullinger gets three and drives in five, while Dunklee adds four hits and three RBI. Groff goes 2-for-2 and walks three times, scores four runs. Little is okay, lasting just five innings and giving up five hits and three runs, but Piccirillo is gold again in relief, going the rest of the way and yielding just one hit and a walk, with four Ks. McArthur is named series MVP again. Off to the World Series!!!

ELSEWHERE:
San Diego 5 - Chicago 2 ... Cubs score two in the ninth, but this one was never close
Chicago 6 - San Diego 5 ... Mike Stackhouse solo shot in the ninth stuns the home crowd, ties the series
Chicago 4 - San Diego 3 ... Stackhouse does it again, in the ninth, versus the same pitcher, and belts are tightening in Padre-land
San Diego 7 - Chicago 5 ... this time the Padres win late, with a two-run rally in the eleventh, tying the series again
Chicago 10 - San Diego 4 ... no drama tonight, with the Cubs scoring seven early to take the air out of the Padres...back to CA with the series on the line
San Diego 3 - Chicago 1 ... outhit 10-4, the Padres scratch out single runs three times, and hold off eighth and ninth inning Cub rallies
San Diego 3 - Chicago 1 ... ace Gary Florence holds the Cubs to four hits and Gary Mehl's two-run double in the fifth is the decider. Cubs denied again.

......

SO we're back to the World Series, again versus the NL West Champions. This time, the Padres. Which is only fitting, as they were the best team in the NL during the regular season, winning 100 games and their division by 14. They win with stout offense (1st in runs scored) and strong starting pitching (2nd in ERA). They're paced by NL Triple Crown winner Julio Gonzalez (.354/58/152), but their #2 through #5 hitters are all danger: SS Israel Almendariz (.284/18/59), 1B Gonzalez, RF Kyle Harrington (.256/24/82), and 2B Tyler Sites (.257/23/96). Leadoff hitter LF David Rowe (.273/7/50) is coming off the Championship Series MVP award, and CF Khalil Wilson and 3B Alex Guillen also hit double figures in home runs. Harrington's a two-time league MVP who looked like a hall of famer at 25, but has been derailed by injuries these last six years. On the mound, they've got a tight four-man rotation for the playoffs, led by NL Cy Young candidate Gary Florence (22-5, 2.88 ERA, 240 K and just 24 BB in 234 IP). Throw in Juan Valdez (17-4, 2.88, 5.3 WAR) and decent backenders Armando Rivera and Jon Dodge, and it'll be tough sledding for our hitters. The bullpen finished just 14th in the NL, and closer Aaron Armstrong (48 saves) has found himself pushed to a setup role in favor of regular season fifth starter Ted Miller. Miller has been up and down in the playoffs, so if we can get past the rotation, maybe we can make hay in the late innings.

On our end, we get some good news, I hope: Chris Wiggins comes off the DL, so I add him to the roster and drop reliever Jay Yates. Wiggins will move back into the starting lineup. What hurts us most right now is not having a DH in our away games, meaning one of Jeremy Dunklee (.286/31/108) or Nate Hullinger (.280/50/143) will have to sit, as neither is worth anything away from 1B or DH. Although I am slightly tempted to put Hulls in left for game one, just to see what happens...

Injuries:
HAW -- OF Mel Carillo (OUT), SP Billy Heine (OUT), SP Bryan Hardin (OUT), RP Cory Taylor (OUT)
SDP -- 3B Tony Solar (OUT), 3B Ryan Mehl (pending), OF Victor Herrera (dtd), RP Manny Aguilar (OUT), RP Jose Madrigal (dtd)

No critical injuries for us, although Heine was putting it together when he got hurt. He would definitely have helped our pitching struggles down the stretch. For the bad guys, Solar was hitting .367 when he broke his elbow in July. They kept winning without him, tho. Mehl's diagnosis is pending, and somewhat humorous, as he hurt himself sliding into second during his game-winning hit in game seven versus the Cubs. Aguilar missed the entire season, and Madrigal is a depth pitcher anyway, so these don't amount to much.

......

This is San Diego's seventh playoff appearance, and fourth trip to the World Series. Their last trip was in 2032, where they lost in six games to the Angels. Two starters from that team--Almendariz and Harrington--plus pitcher Ted Miller are still around for this series. Our own reliever Ryan Key made 72 appearances for the Padres that year. Only Padres OF Khalil Wilson has won a Series ring before, in 2033 with the Pirates.
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Old 10-17-2017, 08:46 PM   #82
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2039 WORLD SERIES, Game One
Hawaii (Leon Casillas, 2-0, 1.93) @ San Diego (Juan Valdez (1-1, 5.00)
Hawaii 3 - San Diego 2 (HAW leads series 1-0) ... down 1-0 in the top of the seventh, my late-night decision to start Hullinger in left pays off when he clouts a three-run shot, which turns out to be the difference. He also made and error and for some reason ended up playing some short, so I'm not sure what kind of mushrooms were being passed around in the dugout, but obviously they worked. Casillas gets a hit and throws 7.1 innings of five-hit ball; Kieffer gives up a late dinger, but does save the game. So, phew. Chris Wiggins gets hurt--AGAIN--chasing a double, so we'll await his diagnosis. Ian Hoppman will probably play in Game Two for him.

2039 WORLD SERIES, Game Two
Hawaii (Eric Jones, 1-0, 0.84) @ San Diego (Jon Dodge, 0-1, 4.50)
San Diego 3 - Hawaii 1 (series tied 1-1) ... I don't know what to make of Kieffer, as he blows another lead, and the game, in the eighth, giving up two runs on three hits (two doubles) and a walk. Jones is money (1 R) but once again can't get out of the sixth. We only manage seven hits, and had nine last game; we gotta step that up heading back home. Two injury diagnoses come in after the game: San Diego's Gary Mehl is out for four months; but our Chris Wiggins has a dtd rib strain, with minimal effect. He has to play.

2039 WORLD SERIES, Game Three
San Diego (Gary Florence, 1-0, 2.00) @ Hawaii (Rob Hart, 0-1, 3.46)
Hawaii 6 - San Diego 5 (HAW leads series 2-1) ... we're outhit 14-9 overall, and were down 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth, when...Hullinger homers; Martinez walks; Henkel singles; Robertson doubles, scoring Martinez; Hunter flies out, Henkel tags and scores; McArthur flies out; Wiggins singles, Robertson stretches it and beats the throw, GAME OVER. New closer Ted Miller was the goat, giving up four hits and all four runs in the ninth, although ex-closer Armstrong did yield Wiggins' game-winning single. On our side, Hart throws poorly (11 H, 5 R, 5.2 IP), but Stanley tosses 3.1 innings of three-hit ball to keep us in it and give they guys a chance.

2039 WORLD SERIES, Game Four
San Diego (Armando Rivera, 2-0, 3.00) @ Hawaii (Bobby Little, 2-0, 4.09)
Hawaii 8 - San Diego 6 (HAW leads 3-1) ... Little is chased early, giving up seven hits and six runs in two innings, and you could hear a pin drop at Kamehameha Field. But McArthur cues the comeback with a three-run blast that ends Rivera's night, we scratch another run out in the sixth, and then score four more in the seventh on Groff's two-run shot, followed up by three singles and two walks and Hey Presto! it's an 8-6 lead. Messinger is stout in relief of Little, giving up just two hits in 4.1 innings of work. Kieffer, as is his wont, puts a runner on in the eighth and loads the bases in the ninth, before getting out of both jams. I swear, Fullpack Stanhouse had nothing on this guy.

2039 WORLD SERIES, Game Five
San Diego (Juan Valdez, 1-2, 4.50) @ Hawaii (Leon Casillas, 3-0, 1.69)
Hawaii 11 - San Diego 0 (HAW wins series 4-1) ... NO DOUBT THIS TIME, BABY. NO DOUBT. Groff smokes a three-run shot in the third to break open a scoreless game, and Chris Wiggins, covered in bandages, pots a GRAND SALAMI in the sixth, and the party is on. Casillas breaks hearts all over southern California by giving up just four hits and three walks. He's named series MVP, and rightly so: 2-0, 15 IP, 9 H, 10 K, 0.60 ERA. Aaron Glass gets the honor of closing out the final inning for some reason. Meh, it's all good. Holy crap does this feel great.

......

HAWAII ISLANDERS WORLD CHAMPS. Sounds nice, doesn't it? It feels especially good, given our struggles down the stretch. Even though we won in five games, until the last one this was a tight series. The key to the series, in my mind, was our pitching. In particular, our middle relief held the fort when our starters faltered. Little and Hart pitched poorly in their starts, and closer Kieffer was erratic, but the rest of the bullpen threw 11 innings and gave up just five hits, with no runs. Compare that to the Padres bullpen: 12 IP, 18 H, 16 ER, 12.00 ERA. That, and being able to start Casillas twice, whereas San Diego couldn't start Florence until Game 3, having started him in their Game 5 clincher against the Cubs. Now, if we had lost Game 5, and faced their top two pitchers in games 6 and 7...well, best not to think about that.

And we don't have to. Instead, we sail away into the off-season, and hopefully turn around and do this again next year.
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:40 PM   #83
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2039-40 Off-season

First, a few items for us...
...RP Jay Yates executes the option year on his contract, meaning he'll come back for another 2.5M next year. He was just okay on the mound (4.33, 43.2 IP, 48 K), but he still has value as a lefty specialist, and his intangibles are a huge plus. So I'm not unhappy with this.
...owner Alexis Pagan is delighted! He called me from Moonbase Alpha, or wherever he hangs out, to tell me how thrilled he is, and to waste no time in giving me my new goals: reach the playoffs; increase our stolen bases; win another championship within three years. Well, who doesn't want to do all that? Besides the stolen bases, that is, which have nearly become irrelevant in today's game. He also tells me that our market size has increased to "Below Average." So, yay? And then, best of all, he increases our budget from $140M to $156M! That actually is great news, since I want to go out and get another top starting pitcher. Maybe.
...finally, it's salary arbitration time. We have six eligible players: C Austin Collins, OF Ernesto Martinez, CL Jim Kieffer, and RPs Cory Taylor, Aaron Glass, and Ben Bunting. I want them all back, even Bunting, who may be useful as a depth bullpen arm. They're all due raises, but I'll try to keep them within limits.

Four more players are pending free agents, but subject to qualifying offers of 13M: CF Chris Wiggins, OF Ian Hoppmann, and RPs Rich Beltowski and Ryan Key. I want Key back, but not at 13M. I'd love to have Beltowski back, but also not at that rate. (He wants 9.5M otherwise.) Hoppmann is old and done, so he can walk. Wiggins, though, I'll try to bring back for another year. (He wants 13.5M per for four years otherwise.) Elsehwere, it's the usual parade of minor league free agents, nearly all of whom aren't worth bringing back. There are a few, however, I'll try to grab on minor league deals if they're still available at some point, likely after the new year when FA demands drop to more reasonable levels.

......

Around the league...
...Seattle fires GM Matt Childers and Manager Justin Gernoll. Both lasted just three seasons for the Mariners. Shea Vucinich takes over the reins as GM, and Jose Alfonso is named the new manager, after 17 seasons as pitching coach in New Britian.
...Miami is sold by Kyle Lobl to 56-year-old Nick Adams, who is said to be meddlesome but with deep pockets.
...Atlanta has a new owner: 65-year-old automobile magnate Jerry Hannan, who wants to save money and win ballgames: "I've won everywhere I've gone. I win. I am a winner." Sure thing, Jer.
...other firings: Tampa GM Daniel Moncivais, Austin Manager Andy Raaff, and the Angels let go of GM Nicholas Hulick and Manager Crayton Bare. Hulick had this to say: "I'm going to do whatever I can to...make sure they regret this decision." Can't wait!
...well, Hulick's ghost wants to make sure the Angels stay bad forever, as they traded three quality pitching prospects to New Orleans for 36-year-old 3B/OF Jake Heberer, who's topped 400 PA only once in the last four seasons. Awful, awful trade.

......

Moving on...
...no staff need re-signing, and no one retired. First time I've ever had a quiet staff off-season that I can remember.
...we claim reliever Zack Randolph off waivers from San Francisco. A 26-year-old righty with just 80 games of big league experience, we tossed 16.2 innings for the Giants last year, striking out 18 and giving up just 9 hits. He's pretty good across the board, with a quality fastball and a tricky knuckle curve. Bullpen getting rebuilt, so stay tuned for more...
...no Islanders win Gold Gloves. Three Royals claim the prize, and several other teams nab two each.
...we re-sign RP Ryan Key to a three-year $12M deal. Pretty rich for a non-closer, but he's been so solid for us since the beginning of time, and I couldn't let him go. He's 31, so I got the third year of the deal to be a team option. Key has pitched the most games in Isles history, 287, and by virtue of his longevity is also seventh in innings pitched, at 355.2.
...four Islanders win Silver Sluggers: 1B Dunklee (.286/31/108, .923 OPS, 5.7 WAR); 2B Robertson (.360/13/84, .936 OPS, 7.0 WAR); 3B Groff (.382/30/99, 1.067 OPS, 9.1 WAR); and DH Hullinger (.280/50/143, .916 OPS, 4.2 WAR). The biggest surprise is Robertson, a wee sprite of a lad who I really think of as more of a high-contact/OBP guy, but who surprised with 36 doubles and 13 HR. That WAR too...He'll probably never reach these numbers again, but he is just 24, so maybe...
...Angels 3B Tony Mendoza wins the Rookie of the Year award, probably the first of many awards he's going to win over his career. He slashed .285/.385/.537 and added 26 HR and 5.5 WAR, and he's not even done developing yet. He reminds me a lot of our own Adam Groff, but with lower contact. Still, a 30-35 HR guy with a slick glove at third, what's not to like? Well, the fact that he's in our division, that's what.
...our own Pat Wilson is named skipper of the year, his second consecutive win. There goes his ego...and his salary request next fall.
...in a mild upset, Leon Casillas wins his third Cy Young award, over Yankees ace Tony Villarruel. TV had higher WAR (7.3 to 6.5), more Ks (274 to 202), better FIP (2.82 to 3.19), and led in several other categories, but I guess voters just couldn't look past Leon's 22 wins. Plus much better control, 3 shutouts (TV had none), and led in any category that TV didn't claim. So it was close. No surprise that SD's Gary Florence wins the NL award, just beating out NYM's Gabe Delfin (going for his third in a row, and the league leader in WAR, K/9, and HR/9). Like Casillas, Florence had 22 wins, and was the staff ace on the best team in the league.
...Adam Groff claims the AL MVP award, which is in my humble opinion fully deserved. He did miss a month of the season, but led the AL in WAR, average, OBP, slugging, and OPS. His fielding was solid, and he stole 25 bases to boot. San Diego's triple crown man Julion Gonzalez was the obvious choice in the NL.
...we waive/DFA three players who aren't coming back anyway: OF Ian Hoppmann, RP Matt Elie, RP Lorenzo Saez. Only Hoppy and 'Zo saw any time with the big club. Both had their moments, and both should be happy to have their Rings and be quiet about it.
...our former closer Jack Shewmake signs a 3 yr, $32M deal with the Cubs. They also signed Rich Beltowski to a one year, 7.2M deal. Belter made 54 appearances for us last year, and was solid all season, but wanted way too much money to bring back to the pen. It looks like the Cubs will try him as a starter, which will likely prove difficult as he's only got two pitches. Shewmake pitched last season for the Dodgers.
...speaking of the Dodgers, let's check in on the league's most notorious spendthrifts. They just dropped 33M on 39-year-old singles hitter Ty Cobb for the next two years. He's still a great contact hitter, but has zero power (the league celebrates his annual home run), doesn't run much anymore (450 career steals, but only 10/year the last six seasons), and only has defensive chops for second base these days. So of course they're trying him at short.
...in other Dodgers news, they add RP Bobby Alvarado for 2.6M per for two years. This brings the total contracts to their top eight relievers to 58.4M, plus four others making a combined 3M. This is what you do when your budget is 262M.
...Australia has been annexed into the US. How else to explain retired pitcher Harry Thrippleton announcing a run for US House of Representatives in his hometown of Sydney, Australia? Can more MLB expansion be far behind?
...the Cubs strike again, signing 1B Willie Jaramillo away from the Red Sox for four years and $40M. He's got power, averaging 39 HR a year, but the real reason he's here is this: he's led the AL in strikeouts the last four years, averaging 242 a season over that time. Still, so what? you ask. Jaramillo will join Cubs shortstop Jordan Cruz, who's led the NL in strikeouts the last six seasons, averaging 246 per over that time. Fun times in the Windy City next year!
...HALL OF FAME: Aroldis Chapman gets in in his ninth year on the ballot, and our manager Pat Wilson makes it in his first. Xander Bogaerts comes close (71%), as does--oddly--Quinn Echelson (72%). I say oddly because despite a nice career, he never stood out anywhere. He pitched for me in Richmond, and was a lights-out setup man for 5 1/2 years, until I made him a starter. He had 6 1/2 years in Richmond as a first-rate starter, then one good year in Seattle, but was pretty much done by age 33. What's probably making him look so good to these silly voters is that he's listed as a reliever, which makes his 44.4 career WAR look pretty damn good by Hall standards for relievers.


Next time: Spring Training and 2040 Preview
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Old 10-29-2017, 01:14 PM   #84
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Off-Season and Spring Training

This was a pretty quiet off-season for us, but was not without some drama and incident. The saddest was that Mark Phillips, an almost-there starting pitcher who made 13 starts last year, blew out his arm in camp and had to be taken out behind the barn and put down. He was more likely to be trade bait during the season--barring injury to other starters--given his so-so movement and being a flyball pitcher, but we're sad to lose him anyway. He's 27, and had been signed off the free agent scrap heap back in our inaugural 2034 season after the Royals released him, and his ratings exploded (much like his elbow just now) two years later. He eventually became one of our top prospects, and #18 in MLB, and made our opening day roster last year. I might make him a coach.

Otherwise, I can sum all of camp up with a few lines...
...one waiver claim: RP Zack Randolph. He made the opening day roster;
...extended head scout Moises Patino and trainer Jordan Villalobos; hitting coach Paul Trashini wants to look for a managerial job after his contract is up this fall, or a gigantic raise;
...OF Mel Carillo will miss the opening series, and OF Jesse Henkel is dinged but generally healty; otherwise, three non-critical pitchers are on the DL;
...Rob Hart's line for the spring: 5 starts, 18 IP, 22 H, 21 R/ER, 21 K, 15 BB, 10.50 ERA, .375 BABIP, 6.76 FIP. Sigh. The Rob Hart Revival tour bus has already broken down.

......

MLB says we'll win 108 games and run away with the division. Groff and Dunklee will have big years at the plate, while Casillas and Hart (!) will pace the staff. Baseball has also ranked our system 5th (out of 36 teams). SP Mike Messinger places 2nd overall, SP Cam Bornhoft 34th, and CF Ian McGowan 46th. Last year's first round pick, SP Taylor Barnett, comes in at 165th, for what that's worth.

Can we repeat? Yes. Will we repeat? Well, that's the fun of it, right? We've got pretty much the same roster as last year, maybe even better. All our key guys are still in their primes, and I think our depth is good enough to withstand a few injuries.

So let's take a look at these guys, and see what we've got...

C Austin Collins, 30 / RH. 2039 stats: .305/.354/.483, 509 AB, 20 HR, 71 RBI, 4.3 WAR. Entering his sixth season with us, and his final contract year. Will make $10M in 2040, so he might price himself off to another team this fall. Still a solid hitter, but a below average catcher.

C Guillermo Diaz, 23 / RH. 2039 stats: .230/.273/.367, 139 AB, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 0.0 WAR. Hit poorly until September in his rookie campaign. Is a much better receiver than Collins, but not in his league at the plate. If Collins leaves, Diaz is not the guy to replace him; no one else in the system is either, unfortunately.

1B Jeremy Dunklee, 29 / LH. 2039 stats: .286/.404/.519, 584 AB, 31 HR, 108 RBI, 5.2 WAR. Still part of the backbone of the lineup, but he hit below .300 for the first time in five seasons. All his power numbers were down, actually; we can hope for a bounceback this year. Signed through 2042 at $11.15M per.

1B/DH Nate Hullinger, 30 / LH. 2039 stats: .280/.338/.578, 600 AB, 50 HR, 143 RBI, 3.8 WAR. Made the most of his second chance, after flaming out in 2037 and getting into just ten games in 2038. If he even approaches those numbers this year, I'll be happy...but I suspect he'll regress considerably.

2B Josh Robertson, 25 / LH. 2039 stats: .360/.413/.523, 545 AB, 13 HR, 84 RBI, 6.6 WAR. Batted eighth and was a real catalyst all season. Played great defense, struck out just 32 times, and managed 56 extra base hits. This year will be a test for him: is he one of the best 2B in the game, or did he play out of his head last year?

3B Adam Groff, 26 / LH. 2039 stats: .382/.449/.618, 503 AB, 30 HR, 99 RBI, 8.7 WAR. Had a great season, and won his first MVP award. He makes our offense go, and is pretty sharp at third as well. His only drawback is a disturbing early-career trend to miss about a month each season. Signed through 2043 at $12.5M, a nice bargain.

SS Mike Hunter, 25 / RH. 2039 stats: .294/.336/.413, 523 AB, 2 HR, 65 RBI, 2.8 WAR. Slumped late after staying hot through the all-star break. Played excellent defense and has Gold Glove potential. Capable of hitting .330+ in a good year.

IF Danny Holguin, 26 / RH. 2039 stats: .301/.360/.473, 226 AB, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 1.4 WAR. Our defensive sub infielder, also had a pretty good year at the plate. Doesn't strike out much, also runs well. In his last pre-arb year, so may ask for quite a raise next year.

LF Ernesto Martinez, 25 / LH. 2039 stats: .274/.322/.487, 470 AB, 25 HR, 91 RBI, 1.8 WAR. Has been a reliable power bat for us for two years now, and has a strong arm in the field. Otherwise, he's fairly average, and likely expendable. Making $4M this year, with an arb estimate of 4.8M next year.

CF Travis McArthur, 27 / RH. 2039 stats: .288/.324/.476, 695 AB, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 2.1 WAR. Decent numbers, but actually a down year for him. Has .300/30/100 potential. Good fielder, strong arm, not really a fit for center, but we have to play him there for now. Signed through 2046 at a sweetheart deal: 5.2M up to 6.2M.

RF Chris Wiggins, 29 / LH. 2039 stats: .350/.387/.521, 420 AB, 8 HR, 48 RBI, 3.0 WAR. Missed almost two months, but still had a great season, and led the league in triples (12). Still, has lost his speed and that's hurt his overall defensive play, despite having a good glove and great arm. Making $13M this year, his last under contract, so may be on the move this fall. Interesting player: has always seemed just short of greatness, and has a career slash line of .314/.352/.472. But doesn't excel in any one area, and seems to suffer a serious injury nearly every year.

OF Mel Carillo, 22 / LH. 2039 stats: .301/.361/.409, 186 AB, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 0.4 WAR. Will miss the first series, on the DL. Still hasn't matched his scouted potential, and has advanced only very slowly over the years. So, yeah, I'm worried that he'll be decent, but not fabulous (like I still hope for). Brings good intangibles to the clubhouse, and is a decent enough fielder, although his arm will limit him to left.

OF Jesse Henkel, 21 / LH. 2039 stats: .293/.309/.663, 92 AB, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 0.7 WAR (also 287 AB in AAA). The kind of guy you'd have a love/hate relationship with: looks to be a great hitter, but cannot hit lefties; won't strike out, but won't walk either; good speed and baserunning, but barely mediocre in the field. Strictly a backup right now, but might develop more with his great intangibles. Worth keeping as a wait-and-see guy.

Ian McGowan, 22 / RH. 2039 stats: .226/.314/.258, 31 AB, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 0.0 WAR (also 352 AB in AAA). Still developing, and will go back to AAA once Carillo is healthy. If his hitting fully develops, he'll be a starter, as his fielding is perfect for center field. Great range, good glove and arm.

......

SP Leon Casillas, 29 / RH. 2039 stats: 22-7, 2.70, 237 IP, 202 K, 6.5 WAR, Cy Young. What else is there to say except that he's the undsiputed ace of our staff, and the two-time defending AL Cy Young winner. Under contract ($26M) through 2046, but has an opt out after 2042. I see that as one major reason why our window to WIN NOW runs for the next three seasons.

SP Eric Jones, 23 / LH. 2039 stats: 15-4, 3.24, 206 IP, 164 K, 5.3 WAR. What a find in the 21st round, huh? Doesn't have big time stuff (fastball tops out at 93 MPH), but gets by with an excellent slider and change, and keeps the ball down. Gave up just 13 home runs last year. Making minimum, with an arb estimate for next year for 6.6M. Will probably try to extend him this month.

SP Billy Heine, 31 / RH. 2039 stats: 6-11, 3.76, 132 IP, 120 K, 2.9 WAR (with SF and HAW). Pitched well in six games after we acquired him from the Giants, then got hurt for the season. If he's healthy this year, I think we've got one of the best 1/2/3 rotations in the game. Five quality pitches, fastball hits 98. We're on the hook for 17.9M of his salary through 2042, so he'd better deliver.

SP Bobby Little, 27 / LH. 2039 stats: 10-1, 4.24, 102 IP, 90 K, 1.2 WAR. On paper, he looks pretty humdrum, with good stuff (elite slider) but just okay movement and control. But he wins games. If we can keep him at the back end of the rotation, we're okay. When he's the #2 guy, we're struggling. Signed through '44, with an opt-out after '43.

SP Rob Hart, 23 / RH. 2039 stats: 12-11, 5.62, 197 IP, 224 K, 2.7 WAR. My biggest head-scratcher. Dominant stuff, with better movement and control than Little. Should be a #2 or, at worst, #3 guy in the rotation. But was just awful for most of last year, and was pretty bad in camp just now. In his last pre-arb year, with an estimate of 4M next year. That's lower than you might think by looking at him, so maybe my scouts are wrong and last year (after a really good 2038) is what he really is. This year will tell.

CL Jim Kieffer, 26 / RH. 2039 stats: 8-6, 40 SV, 3.31 ERA, 73 IP, 96 K, 0.7 WAR. Overall, pretty solid, but with a few too many outright blowups for my taste. Was all over the map in the playoffs too. He does have a slightly above average third pitch (with good stamina too), so could slide into the rotation if I go that route. Maybe it's time to look past having a closer, and think more about stoppers; after all, saves don't matter, wins do.

SU Ryan Key 31 / RH, Aaron Glass 29 / LH. 2039 stats, combined: 4-3, 1 SV, 3.40, 84 IP, 85 K, 1.5 WAR. Entering their fourth season, more or less, as my setup combo. They've been solid, if not dominant. Key had 14 saves late in 2038 as emergency closer, so there's another argument for using stoppers vs a closer. We'll see.

MR Jay Yates, Pat Stanley, Bobby Piccirillo, Zack Randolph. Yates is 34, was okay last year, and probably won't last past this one. Stanley (1.93 in 34 IP) had a good rookie season. Piccirillo is also the long man and threw 155 IP last year as an injury replacement. Randolph is a waiver claim from SF, threw 16 IP for them last year; he looks like a solid addition.

......

April brings 26 games, 17 at home. We open with three series against Central Division teams, before our first Western Division tilt, a four-game homestand against the Angels.

Budget-wise, our payroll has gone up, to 131M (from 99M last year). Every other line has stayed the same, but our staff payroll (currently 5M) will likely at least double next year, if we try re-signing everyone. We've also upped our season ticket sales, to 22.3K, from 20.9K.

Next time: LET'S GO!

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Old 10-31-2017, 05:38 PM   #85
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MLB 2040: Getting Started.

April 3-5 vs MINNESOTA
Finished 89-74 last year, losing a tiebreak game for the second wildcard spot. MLB has them winning 96 games this year and taking the Central. They'll supposedly do this despite having a subpar outfield, and 3/4 of their infielders ranked in near the bottom of MLB starters. But their best players -- C Peanuts Carter, 3B Bananas Foster, DH Steve Wilkins, and LF Jose Dominguez -- are excellent, their rotation is above average, and closer Neil Wagner looks to have a breakout season. They also cut $48M from last year's payroll, trying to stem the constant flow of cash that's seen the franchise lose over $121M combined over two seasons. Manager Jose Mateo starts his 17th season with the team, the second longest current tenure in MLB. Favorite name: prospect pitcher Kyle Hoots.

HAW pitchers: [2039 stats] Leon Casillas (22-7, 2.70) / Eric Jones (15-4, 3.24) / Billy Heine (6-11, 3.76)
MIN pitchers: [2039 stats] Chris Wead (8-8, 4.17) / Chris Varo (13-6, 3.81) / Chris Kruse (11-11, 4.33)

#1: LOSS 5-7 ... outhit them 12-10, but Dunklee's error in the third leads to three unearned runs, and the bullpen coughs up four runs late to blow it
#2: WIN 6-5 ... bullpen nearly does it again, giving up four runs late after Jones' strong start (6.2 IP, 1 R, 9 K)...Dunklee makes up for yesterday with a 3-run shot in the first
#3: LOSS 5-13 ... everybody stinks today (save Hullinger, with 2 HR), and Piccirillo's ERA is a nice and soft 30.86...it's not too early to start making fun of guys

Well, not the greatest way to start, but better than getting swept by Detroit like we did last year (or was it '38...hmm)....the bullpen looked particularly egregious, but it's early days yet.... ELSEWHERE: Texas 3B Johnny Winn and Yankees pitcher Alejandro Menjivar get 9-game suspensions for starting a bench-clearing brawl. Somehow, Texas pitcher Kevin Becker then plunks two guys and gets away with it.


April 6-8 vs CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Predicted to win 79 games, they got off to a good start by sweeping the hapless Astros. Not a lot of top-end talent, but C Dan Starr is a dynamic hitter (and a failure as a human), averaging 36 HR and 6.0 WAR over his 7-year career. 2B Francisco Gervacio cranked out 46 HR last season (and a 0.3 WAR), and SS Jaiden Elliott 39, so they can go deep. SP Hide Asano was the prize international FA last spring, but he managed just 11 wins and a 5.35 ERA, and needs to do better. Jake Atkinson is the ostensible ace, but he's coming off an even worse year: 7-15, 5.75 ERA. Demanding owner Andy Johnston is already cranky, what with only one winning season since 2032. Manager Jose Ortiz is starting his sixth full season with the Sox. Favorite name: pitcher Bijou Beamesderfer.

HAW pitchers: Bobby Little (10-1, 4.24) / Rob Hart (12-11, 5.62) / Leon Casillas (2040: 0-1, 0.00)
CHI pitchers: Lance Hansen (10-12, 4.59) / Robby Sheehan (8-18, 7.27) / Jake Atkinson (2040: 0-0, 4.76)

#4: WIN 7-6 ... everyone gets a hit (including 6 XBH), but the bullpen woes continue: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R...Little pulled early with an injury, but won't miss a start
#5: LOSS 6-7 ... seven Sox hits, six are HR...Hart gives up four by himself, but--wait for it--the bullpen melts down again in the 8th and 9th...it's only five games, stay calm
#6: WIN 21-3 ... not a typo...23 hits, 8 walks, and 1 error are juuuust enough for the win...Casillas is gold but Glass gives up a 2-run shot in the 9th just for funsies

Well that last game sure was fun. Ernesto Martinez set a team record with 7 RBI, and Adam Groff now has a 21-game hitting streak. Our hitting has been brilliant so far, but pitching...less so. It's too early to get a read on the rotation, but Casillas has been stout in his two starts. But the bullpen has been beyond awful, with an ERA over 10, and 27 H and 6 HR in 19.2 IP.... I make my second move of the season (first was sending down OF McGowan when Carillo came off the DL), and that's demoting Bobby "30 ERA" Piccirillo and giving 29-year-old Jorge Escalante his first taste of big league ball. He's a hard-throwing righty with some control issues, but keeps the ball down, which I love....SP Eric Jones turns down my 5-year $36M offer, counters with 4 years and $41M.... ELSEWHERE: the hated A's are 5-1, and in the NL the Austin Outlaws are 6-0, giving them 10% of their victory total from last year. And the year before that, etc.


April 9-11 @ KANSAS CITY
Predicted to win 82 games, KC appears to be heading into the doldrums after regularly winning 90+ games and making the playoffs for over a decade now. They're 3-3 so far, with pitching outpacing their hitting, although the rotation is struggling. LF Eli Immordino is a .290 hitting Gold Glover, and CF Pete Howarth looks just the same, only without the accolades. The fans are happy, and turning out, but owner J.J. Glass is not, despite a projected $35M profit. Manager Eli Guy is the old hand in MLB, entering his 19th season at the KC helm. Favorite name: tie, AA thrower Akke Zonneveld and rookie baller August Apt.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (1-0, 1.35) / Billy Heine (0-1, 6.75) / Bobby Little (0-0, 5.40)
KCR pitchers: Nick Boston (0-1, 8.44) / Mike Head (1-0, 4.91) / Chris Smolak (0-0, 11.25)

#7: WIN 5-3 ... Groff ties it with a solo shot in the 9th, and he and Hullinger drive home runs in the 11th for the win...you might like to know that the bullpen gave up 2 in the 8th, fwiw
#8: WIN 5-0 ... Heine with the 2-hit, 10-K shutout...keep the bullpen unoccupied, that's my new motto
#9: LOSS 5-6 ... guess what? We were up 5-1 heading to the bottom of the 8th...Escalante is no bueno in his debut, and closer Kieffer is worse

Argh, that bullpen. I think they've cost us all four of our losses this year. Those will hurt come September, I'll bet. No one has an ERA below 5.40, and collectively they're still over 10.... Groff is at 24 games now, and the hitters are cranking it out, leading the league at .322.... A ball Eureka Aces are 0-6 despite some okay looking team stats, so I may have to tweak them a bit.... ELSEWHERE: Last year's NL MVP (and Triple Crown winner) Julio Gonzalez is out for the year after breaking his knee while sliding into second on the 8th.... Where do they get these guys? Oakland's superstar C Vinny Vargas is still out for a month, so of course backup Jeff Murphy comes in and wins player of the week.... Minny bashes out 24 runs and 27 hits against the Astros on the 10th; Houston's now without their ace, closer, 3B, and 1B. But they're not in last! (Yet.)


April 12-15 vs LOS ANGELES ANGELS
MLB says they'll get 74 wins, which sounds bad but would be their best finish since 2036 (79 wins). Jared Grose, even at 37, still ranks as the 2nd best catcher in MLB, although his work behind the plate has been appalling for years. 3B Tony Mendoza (2039 AL ROY), 2B Travis Tanner, and LF Pat Sexton are the new wave of prospects, and give hope that a bright future is coming soon. Somehow they already have seven players on the DL. Dutchman Andy Raaff is the new manager, after a fun 62-win season in Austin last year. Favorite name: Angus Toohey (honorable mention to Jim Fako).

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (0-0, 6.43) / Leon Casillas (1-1, 1.26) / Eric Jones (1-0, 1.32) / Billy Heine (1-1, 2.08)
LAA pitchers: Dean Jernigan (0-1, 22.09) / Jeff Caraway (1-0, 1.54) / Greg Langworthy (2-0, 4.50) / Josh Singleton (0-1, 4.09)

#10: WIN 5-0 ... for this game, at least, Hart buys into the "keep the bullpen away from the field" program, throwing a 9-hit, 11-K complete game
#11: WIN 6-5 ... chickensh*t pitchers walk Groff three times, ending his hit streak...suitably chastened, the pen goes 4.1 innings and yields just 2 hits
#12: WIN 3-2 ... three solo home runs (Groff, McArthur, Hunter) are our only hits, but it's enough...Jones is great, Kieffer does his job too
#13: WIN 4-3 ... three more homers, and another strong start for Heine...bullpen gives up a run in two innings; baby steps

Sweep! And we finally get some decent relief pitching. Let's see if we can keep that up.... Josh Robertson gets hurt, diagnosis pending.... ELSEWHERE: Milwaukee's Brandon Jarmon has a 0.42 ERA over three starts. Which is good, since onetime great Bill Salazar gets hurt again. Salazar was great from 2031 through 2036, when he got hurt after making 17 starts for the Expos, and since then has made 0, 24, 24, and now 2 starts. He'll be making at least $19M through 2044, so good for you, Brewers.


April 16-18 vs HOUSTON
The perenially inept Astros are predicted to hit 71 wins this year, which would be an improvement over the last two seasons. None of their starters are top-ten in the league (although 2B Jefferson McKenzie is 11th, but is off to a .216 start). RF Paul Carlson (.382/8/17) is sustaining the offense, and #5 starter Joe Stevens (2-0, 1.93) is the bright spot in the rotation. Guillermo Reyes is in his second year at the helm, after six years in Tampa Bay. Favorite name: 30-year-old AA outfielder Bob Houston, carrying (and dropping) the hopes of an entire franchise.

HAW pitchers: Bobby Little (0-0, 2.70) / Rob Hart (1-0, 2.81) / Leon Casillas (1-1, 3.32)
HOU pitchers: Jason Ray (0-1, 7.71) / Joe Stevens (2-0, 1.93) / Nelson Gonzalez (1-1, 2.50)

#14: WIN 5-3 ... Dunklee clouts his third and the bullpen throws two more scoreless innings...Little: 7.0 IP, 5 H 3 R, 9 K
#15: WIN 9-8 ... eight balls leave the yard, and the pen reverts, with Kieffer giving up three in the 9th, but we score 2 in the 13th to escape with the win...Groff hurt, uh oh
#16: WIN 2-1 ... Casillas throws a quiet 7 innings, and Dunklee and Diaz homer to lead the attack...bad injury news tho

Another sweep, and we found ways to win three games that could easily have gone the other way. The bullpen ERA is finally under 7 (yay?), and we're still beating the cover off the ball. The rotation is looking decent right now. So what is there to complain about? Injuries. 2B Josh Robertson got his diagnosis: torn labrum, out for nine months. GREAT. He was off to a great start (.395/.480/.581) too. Danny Holguin takes his place, and John Canning comes up from AAA. Neither is the rest-of-season option, really, so I'll start poking around for a possible replacement from beyond. One option is unsigned FA Miguel Esqueda, a high-contact/no-power type, who's good in the field and the club house. He's also good for maybe 10 walks a year, but is a lifetime (he's 28) .287 hitter with speed, so I'm not sure why he's sitting around unsigned. (He also sat out last year.) Stay tuned....Better news is that Groff's injury is a five-day blister.... ELSEWHERE: Our last two series have propelled us to a 12-4 start, but other are hot too: Toronto is 10-3, leading the East; Austin is 10-4, on top of the NL West (the first time that sentence has ever been written); Philly is 10-5 and leading the NL East.

......

Toad Esqueda....worth it or not?
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April 20-22 @ DETROIT
Predicted to finish with 89 wins and earn a wildcard, the Tigers have been slow out of the gate, at 5-8. They're getting on base (5th in league), but not scoring (16th); they're 6th in runs against, but the rotation ERA is 14th; and they're last in team defense. Top player C.J. Lee is off to a good start (.286/5/18), but everyone else is just treading water. Hitters are healthy, but their top two relievers--Chet King and Joey Silverman--are already done for the year. Manager Francesco Miani, owner of 24 Little Caesar's franchises, is the fifth-year manager. 85-year-old owner Mike Ilitch, Jr., is denying rumors he wants $7.8 billion from the city for a new ballpark. Favorite name: OF Ford Hammonds, born in Detroit no less. That's some nostalgia right there.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (2-0, 1.66) / Billy Heine (2-1, 2.25) / Bobby Little (1-0, 3.18)
DET pitchers: Raul Bravo (0-0, 2.77) / Mike Martin (0-0, 5.87) / Joey Etler (0-2, 4.24)

#17: LOSS 3-4 ... Hullinger tries his best, with a two-run double in the 9th, but it's too little too late
#18: LOSS 1-4 ... Heine stays in juuuust long enough to give up three late runs, on 13 hits...our hitting has dried up
#19: LOSS 3-6 ... ugh

What a nice gift to Detroit. Hitters stopped hitting, and pitching wasn't good enough to pull out a game. Moving on.... ELSEWHERE: Toronto keeps winning, now 13-3.... Texas is off to a good start, now 12-8, just a half game behind us.... Brooklyn is struggling, at 5-12, bottom in the league.


April 23-25 @ CLEVELAND
At 6-11, sitting in the Central division basement. OF Greg Tackett is healthy so far, and leading the attack at .339/.500/.607. Thing is, he's in his 8th year and has only played 130+ games twice. Rotation is biting it hard, with an 8.03 ERA, although the bullpen is 4th in the AL right now. Manager Jose Jimenez is in his fourth year at the helm, but most of his players are unhappy with him, and the clubhouse mood is not pretty. Favorite name: Mike Brilliant (LOW: Intelligence, "Often speaks without thinking.")

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (1-0, 3.38) / Leon Casillas (2-1, 2.77) / Eric Jones (2-1, 2.28)
CLE pitchers: Billy Minnifield (0-2, 10.50) / Tyson Murphy (1-2, 8.64) / Mike Cote (13.79)

#20: LOSS 1-2 ... Hart is okay (but 5 BB in 6 IP), and yields just 2 solo home runs, which are the difference...five hits for the sputtering offense
#21: WIN 7-3 ... hits, at last! Twelve, in fact, including McArthur's 2-run shot in the first...Casillas goes eight, and Kieffer earns his pay with a silent ninth
#22: LOSS 5-9 ... the bullpen reverts, giving up five in the 8th...Hullinger hits his 5th

Pretty terrible road trip, 1-5, against two struggling teams. Plus, Groff gets hurt again in the last game, diagnosis pending.... Bullpen is flailing again, might be time for some more roster moves.... ELSEWHERE: Baltimore's Juan Jimenez leads MLB with 12 home runs, the only player in double figures so far. Also leads the AL with 1.9 WAR.


April 27-29 vs MILWAUKEE
Average so far, at 11-11. Scoring well, 6th best, but pitching is down, at 12th in the league. So-called ace Bill Salazar is (once again) done for the year, and star SS Tyler Peek (.324 this year, and over .300 the past three years) is done until June. Franklin Blanco is in his second year as manager, won 90 games last year. Favorite name: Jeremy 'Splinter' Crutch.

HAW pitchers: Billy Heine (2-2, 2.93) / Bobby Little (1-1, 4.09) / Rob Hart (1-1, 3.30)
MIL pitchers: Brandon Jarmon (3-1, 1.21) / Alberto Chavez (2-1, 5.33) / Tim Pinksen (0-1, 3.48)

#23: WIN 4-3 ... Kieffer stumbles again in the ninth, but Jesse Henkel saves him with a 2-run game ending double...Hunter goes 4-for-4...Wiggins hurt
#24: LOSS 4-6 ... five runs in the first and it's lights out...we outhit them 12-9 but can't string together enough at once to come back
#25: LOSS 2-5 ... another dull performance, and Hart is ugly again...Wiggins, already suffering from a dtd injury, gets another one, this time pending

Nice way to close out the month, heading into three heavy series against West competition. Hitting has been moribund (but AVG is still 1st), and the bullpen is still awful. I did make one move: Jorge Escalante went back to AAA, and Chris Mayer comes up. Mayer has made 28 appearances for Hawaii these last two years, but only 7 bad ones last year before being sent down.... Some good news, in that Groff's pending injury was just a 2-game muscle tweak. But Chris Wiggins has his own pending injury, and could be out for some time.... Looking hard at making some more roster changes, bigger than just promotions.... ELSEWHERE: Pittsburgh's looking good right now, at 15-9, and doing it with--what else--a blistering offense that's leading the league in every important category. More impressive is New Orleans, at 15-10 despite the NL's worst offense.


April 30, May 1-2 vs OAKLAND
Treading water at 12-12, and with five injured batters, sporting an offense that's 17th in the AL. But their pitching is the best thing going currently, and team defense is second best. Somehow they only have 19 home runs in their 24 games, an unheard of number in today's game. We'll face the top of their rotation in this series, not the greatest thing for an offense that needs to get healthy asap. Manager Robert Woodard is in his ninth year, and has yet to field a losing team in his seven full seasons with the team. Favorite name: as much as I love Torvald Blokker, I gotta go with ace SP Ricky Hose. Apt name for a hard thrower.

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (3-1, 2.91) / Eric Jones (2-1, 3.06) / Billy Heine (2-2, 2.67)
OAK pitchers: Ricky Hose (2-3, 3.69) / Fernando Pena (0-2, 4.19) / Matt Bienvenu (2-2, 2.77)

#26: LOSS 5-8 ... lots of home runs (six) and lots of bad pitching (everyone), and the struggle continues...Casillas flops early
#27: LOSS 4-6 ... Jones (5 IP, 12 H, 6 R) is just awful, but hey the bullpen gives up nothing! Sheesh...
#28: LOSS 3-4 ... Key's meltdown in the 8th wastes a gem from Heine (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 12 K), and it's officially time to make some changes

The sweep puts us at 14-14, the latest we've been .500 in at least four years. Hitting has slowed, although we're still 2nd in AVG, but 6th in runs for; pitching has also suffered, down to 10th in runs against. The rotation is still strong, 2nd best, but the bullpen is still a disgrace.... Rumor has it we're on the verge of making a seriously big trade, trying to shake things up. Ooh, boy, can't wait!... ELSEWHERE: Texas (18-11) and Oakland (15-12) have passed us in the standings, and Seattle and LA are right behind us.... Philly paces the league at 19-8, with Minnesota right behind at 19-9. Cincinnati was supposed to be among the best in the NL, but are really leaking oil at 9-18.


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Old 11-01-2017, 09:04 PM   #87
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BIG NEWS

Well, we did it. Pulled the trigger. Made a move. Did the deed. It's early in the season, yes, but I felt like we had to do something to juice us out of this horrid stretch. So I dealt from strength--starting pitching, if you can believe I just wrote that, and positional depth--to get a guy I've been wanting for some time. Also, just about everybody involved in this trade has been off this season, so maybe they all can use the change of scenery to their advantage. So, without further ado:

Hawaii trades C Austin Collins, LF Ernesto Martinez, SP Bobby Little, RP Chris Mayer, RP Matt Elie, and two low draft picks to Portland for C Alexis Mercedes, RP Ken Powers, and OF Tom Rifkind.

Breaking it down...

Mercedes is the key piece for me. The 27-year-old (turns 28 in 20 days) is in his fourth year with the Pioneers, after four seasons with the White Sox. He's not a contact hitter--which is a change of pace from Collins, who he replaces--but is a big-time power hitter, patient at the plate, walks a lot, and a much better catcher than Collins. His career slash is .254/.368/.509, and he averages 39 HR, 100 RBI, and 5.0 WAR per season. This year has been a down one (.218/9/15) but the power is still there. He's making 7.2M this year, and 8.3M each of the next three seasons. We looked hard at Mercedes last season, but the price was too high (my top prospect, #2 in MLB Mike Messinger) so we put it off.

Powers is 33, having a bad year (7.31 ERA, so he'll fit right in), but my scouts say he's still got plenty in the tank. He's a groundballer and his BABIP has been unusually high this year, so I'm hoping his luck will turn for us. He's at least another warm body to throw to the wolves. He's making 1.04M and is a free agent after the season. Rifkind is 27, a contact hitter who doesn't strike out, with zero power and below average plate discipline. Decent fielder, with only average range. Hit .348 in 316 AB last year, but down to .270 as a spot starter this year. Led the NL in doubles with 54 in 2036, and has a lifetime average of .332 in 1676 AB.

We gave up a lot, especially considering two of the guys we got may not be back next year. Collins has been a fixture behind the plate going on five years now, so he's tough to lose. But he's making 10M this year and would've been a free agent come this fall. I had little interest in bringing him back for a big raise. He's 30 now, and just not a good enough defensive catcher to make elite money. Still, a quality player, and hopefully he'll improve upon his .250 start this year (about 45 points below his career average).

Martinez was a Rule 5 pickup in December 2036, who worked his way into the lineup last year and had delivered 51 HR over the past two seasons. Was struggling this year (.225, 2 HR), and was never really in my long-term plans. I feel I'm ready to turn LF over to Carillo and Henkel, and Ian McGowan will get a longer look soon, once he's back from his concussion (injured in AAA). Newly acquired Rifkind becomes our other backup OF too.

Little is a guy I'll miss, despite being a dime-a-dozen middle-of-the-rotation kind of guy. Probably because I drafted him in my last year with Richmond, then got him from the Eagles for a couple of veteran pitchers when they were going for the World Series the following season. He was adequate for us this year, and making a reasonable 5M. His salary jumps to 7.1 next year, then 8.8 after that. I want to give some youngsters, cheap ones at that, a shot, and moving Little now gives me that chance. And more flexibility to make a better extension offer to Eric Jones.

Mayer and Elie are your standard good-one-year-gone-the-next middle relief guys. Mayer had just come up and thrown 4.1 quality innings for us last week, which you literally cannot say about any of our other relievers, so maybe trading him now was foolish. I look at it as "selling high" instead.

......

Despite getting negative fan reaction to losing Collins, Martinez, and Little, the positive feeling about Mercedes offset the bad, and our Fan Interest metric actually increased from 97 to 99.

Adding the newbies to the lineup still left me one player short, so I call up 2039 waiver claim (from Portland, no less) Chance Johnson to get his first taste of MLB. Good stuff and movement, average control, groundballer, slider is his best pitch. Now make me proud.

Also, in a bit of a shock move, closer Jim Kieffer will get an "emergency" start in Little's place for tomorrow's game at Texas. (Maybe not so shocking given that none of my AAA starters on the 40-man roster would be rested enough to start, and Kieffer has the chops on paper to move into the rotation. Shocking the system requires actual shocks sometimes.)
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Old 11-05-2017, 05:40 PM   #88
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May 2040: Recovery or Spinning Tires

May 3-6 @ TEXAS
Currently riding high on a 5-game winning streak, and on top of our division at 18-11. Second in runs scored--and first in home runs--and eighth in runs allowed. DH Luis Olivo (.325/10/27) and 2B Gabriel Gallegos (.319, 6 steals) are leading the attack. SP Seth Purdy is having his best season so far (2-2, 2.78, 30 K, 35 IP), yet is "very unhappy" about his performance. Closer Joe Gordon has 11 saves in 12 appearances and has yet to yield a run. Manager Drew Saylor is in his eighth year at the helm, and is working on only his second winning record during that stint. Favorite name: AAA manager Oliver Odle.

HAW pitchers: Jim Kieffer (1-2, 5.27) / Rob Hart (1-2, 3.89) / Leon Casillas (3-2, 3.92) / Eric Jones (2-2, 4.10)
TEX pitchers: Alex Mares (2-2, 4.78) / Seth Purdy (2-2, 2.78) / Jeff Sullivan (4-2, 3.80) / Kevin Becker (4-1, 3.67)

#29: LOSS 8-9 ... Mercedes homers in his first game, but oh man this bullpen: eight runs (six earned) and five walks...I may try a witch doctor next
#30: WIN 13-7 ... a lot of anger today: we hit six home runs, including another from Mercedes, plus he drives in seven...Hart sprains his ankle, but may not miss a start
#31: LOSS 6-8 ... McArthur and Henkel have big games, but Casillas' down year gets worse with 6 R and 11 H in 4.2 IP...bullpen adds two more runs to the fun, because why not
#32: LOSS 2-8 ... a big steaming pile

That went well, didn't it? We're hitting like champs, but our pitching...when it rains, it pours: can anyone on this team get anybody out? New relievers Chance Johnson (from AAA) upchucked early, as did newbie Ken Powers (from POR). And the first two starters in this series got hurt: Kieffer for 5 days, so he'll make his next start, but Hart has a 5-week dtd injury, and goes on the DL. I call up my #2 prospect Cam Bornhoft; he'll make his MLB debut next series. Can he be any worse than what's gone before?... ELSEWHERE: Some people are happy: Toronto and Miami were supposed to be bad this year, but they're 21-8 and 21-9, respectively. And some are unhappy: this was supposed to be a breakthrough year for the Yankees, but they're 10-22 so far. (Trading partner for us? Hmm...)


May 7-10 @ SEATTLE
Average so far, at 16-16, but they're ahead of us, so I'll shut up. They're struggling to score: 15th in runs for, 17th in AVG; and about average in pitching, at 10th in runs against, and they have a -19 run differential. RF Mike Wapner is healthy again and hitting (.348/11/30), and #1 SP Aaron Myers (5-2, 2.92, 52 IP, 58 K) is earning his keep. Cuban Jose Alfonso is the rookie manager, and his players generally like him, but the clubhouse is unhappy. Favorite name: several: starting C Seth Swank, AA OF Matt Zeeryp, A ball SP David Jimbo.

HAW pitchers: Billy Heine (2-2, 2.43) / Jim Kieffer (1-2, 5.40) / Cam Bornhoft (0-0, 0.00) / Leon Casillas (3-3, 4.74)
SEA pitchers: Jimmy Stanford (1-4, 7.00) / Amir Farland (3-2, 3.29) / Ruben Alvarado (3-1, 4.93) / Aaron Myers (5.2, 2.92)

#33: LOSS 3-9 ... how we can outhit a team and still lose by six runs is a complete mystery...but then, so is this entire season so far...bullpen does it again (2 IP, 4 R)
#34: WIN 3-2 ... Carillo homers in his third straight game, Kieffer looks good over 7 IP, and the bullpen throws three good innings for the win...investigation is ongoing
#35: WIN 4-3 ... Bornhoft looks okay (7.2 IP, 11 H, 2 R) in his debut and the pen looks good again...second straight extra inning win
#36: WIN 6-0 ... there he is! Casillas tosses a four-hit shutout, and John Canning (who?) gets four hits, while Carillo bangs out three

Nice effort this series, and we're back at .500! For the first time this season, the bullpen's ERA is below 6.00. Yeah, it's still 5.92, but it's something.... Team hitting still looks good--fifth in AVG and HR, 4th in OBP--but no one is having a standout season. Four guys are hitting .300, led by Dunklee at .324, but nobody has hit 10 HR yet, and Dunklee and Groff lead the team with 24 RBI.... ELSEWHERE: Austin is still over .500 (18-16), but is slumping and has fallen out of first place. Houston continues to live in the muck: worst record in the league at 10-26, and riding a 7-game losing streak.


May 11-13 vs PITTSBURGH
After seven division titles (and one World Series win) over eight years, it's been a couple of moribund seasons for the Pirates. So their 21-14 start has been a welcome surprise. Hitting is tops in the NL, and they're 2nd in runs scored, with six starters hitting over .300 (and 3B Jordan Shields leading the league at .388). Pitching has been much better than last year's league-worst ERA, at 6th in runs against. Three new members of the rotation helps. David Wallace is the third-year manager, hoping to lead them back to their recent glory. Favorite name: AA pitcher Sincere Brown. Although honorable mention to AA outfielder Zane Humm, for glorious simplicity.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (2-3, 5.01) / Billy Heine (2-3, 3.09) / Jim Kieffer (1-2, 4.50)
PIT pitchers: Ronnie Storie (2-3, 4.26) / Andy Gould (4-2, 4.84) / Matt Beck (3-0, 2.54)

#37: LOSS 5-6 ... Jones, 5 R in 6 IP, is not earning a look at an extension right now...but he does bean Shields, their best player, giving him a concussion
#38: LOSS 3-8 ... more inspirational pitching today, and Dunklee gets plunked (revenge?) by Andy Gould and both earn nine-game suspensions...sigh
#39: LOSS 5-7 ... Kieffer is going great guns until giving up 3 in the sixth and again in the seventh...otherwise, no comment

Well, so much for the good feelings from our Seattle series. This time, the rotation is to blame....Infielder Danny Holguin gets hurt, is dtd for two weeks. Not sure if I'll DL him or not. Plus, after the first game, OF Mel Carillo "exchanges pleasantries" with a fan outside the park, and some are asking for an apology. Can this season devolve any further? Oh, and Dunklee is suspended for eight more games.... Some roster moves: RP Chance Johnson, OF Jonathan Spalding sent down; RP Ronnie Corgan, OF Roberto Mendez called up. Corgan is a 3rd round pick from 2036 who's been great in AAA this year, and Mendez is a scouting discovery from 2034 and an average hitter, but great fielder and fast as a deer. Both will make their MLB debuts.... ELSEWHERE: Houston has lost ten in a row, now sitting at 10-29. Meanwhile, Minnesota has surged out to the best record in baseball, at 27-12. Nothing else worth mentioning.


May 14-16 vs ST LOUIS
The latest team that we'll help fix is the Cards, now at 19-20, fifth place in the Central. Eighth in runs scored, eleventh in runs against, with a +1 differential. Unlike us, they're scoring more than they're hitting (14th in AVG, 13th in OBP). Rotation is 4th in the NL, and led by Islander reject Ken Clark (of course he's good again). Favorite name: Curt Short (yes, he's 5'8"), and also AA 2B Jared Scruggs. Manager is Orlando Lopez, in his third year.

HAW pitchers: Cam Bornhoft (0-0, 3.52) / Leon Casillas (4-3, 3.93) / Eric Jones (2-3, 5.32)
STL pitchers: Mike Bryant (3-3, 4.39) / Ken Clark (4-1, 3.02) / Joey Muhlenkamp (2-3, 4.15)

#40: LOSS 2-4 ... Bornhoft goes the distance, and we outhit the Cards, but whatever...Groff and Hunter are still hitting, but everyone else has dropped off
#41: WIN 7-1 ... Casillas! My only reason for living right now...Holguin gets the key hit, tripling in two in a four-run first
#42: WIN 7-5 ... Jones continues to struggle, but we finally string together enough hits...Groff and McArthur knock in two runs apiece with two doubles apiece

Obviously we'll take the two wins, making this a standout recent series for us. We're sitting at 20-22, tied for third, 5.5 games out of first (Texas still leads).... We're sixth in runs for, 11th in runs against, with just a +6 run differential. Our hitting is outpacing our production, however, since we're 2nd in AVG (.282) and 4th in OBP (.346); the bullpen is still in last place, sporting a fine 5.50 ERA.... Dunklee still has five games to go.... ELSEWHERE: Houston's losing streak is now 13.... San Diego's Gary Florence (2039 NL Cy Young winner) has the lead in the pitching triple crown.... Austin's fast start is just a memory now: 19-21 and 2-8 in their last ten.


May 18-20 @ CHICAGO CUBS
The Cubs look good again this year, at 24-18 currently, but are an odd team. They're 14thin AVG and OBP, but 7th in runs scored, probably due in large part to being 2nd in home runs. Pitching is odd too, with the rotation sitting at 12th, and the bullpen rating as the NL's best. They win despite the offensive black hole of leadoff man Jordan Cruz, slashing .220/.319/.358, with 68 K in 159 AB. They also signed AL K maven Willie Jaramillo for 1B, and, when healthy, he hasn't disappointed: 35 K in 98 AB, plus 8 HR and zero doubles. Oh, and #2 batter Edgar Cantu is delighting at .157/.282/.306 Three pitchers are former Islanders: starter Rich Beltowski (2039), CL Jack Shewmake (2035-38), and MR Raleigh Vance (2034-35). All are having good years. They also have seven players on the DL, including two starting OF and two starting pitchers. Wilson Heredia is the manager, in his second season. (He was also the Cubs batting coach from 2027-2031.)

HAW pitchers: Billy Heine (2-4, 3.91) / Jim Kieffer (1-3, 4.55) / Cam Bornhoft (0-1, 3.78)
CHC pitchers: Rich Beltowski (2-1, 3.95) / Bryan Melstrom (1-3, 5.24) / Josh Scanlon (1-3, 4.57)

#43: WIN 9-6 ... four hits for Carillo, and three (plus three RBI) for Henkel...Yates gets his second save
#44: WIN 4-1 ... Mercedes gets hot with three hits and an RBI, and Henkel hits a two-run shot in the sixth...Kieffer K's 11 in 72. IP, but Yates hurts his back and is out for two weeks
#45: LOSS 6-8 ... Bornhoft looks every bit a rookie today, giving up all 8 runs...Mercedes gets three hits and drives in four, but we blow a 5-0 lead

Disappointing final game, but still we won the first two.... Dunklee still has two more games to sit, but we're getting healthier: Wiggins comes off the DL and Holguin's dtd injury is done. But Jay Yates is out for two weeks, so we'll have to scrounge up another AAA pitcher. And Cam Bornhoft will head back to AAA after that last start. I'm going to bring up #1 prospect Mike Messinger to replace him. Bobby Piccirillo is also back, for long relief and spot starting. RP Cory Taylor, who I'd hoped would be a strong member of our staff this year, is also off the DL now, but needs a rehab stint in AAA.... ELSEWHERE: Dodgers pitcher Jackson Suttie throws the season's first no-hitter, a 3-0 win over the Orioles. He walked six.... Pittsburgh is streaking, with a 10-game run of wins, and Houston finally won a game, bringing them to 11-34.... Pittsburgh's Jordan Shields is hitting .395, and also leads the NL with a 1.179 OPS and 3.4 WAR.


AL WEST STANDINGS
TEX 28-18 --
OAK 25-20 2.5
SEA 23-23 5
HAW 22-23 5.5
LAA 21-24 6.5
HOU 11-34 16.5
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Old 11-06-2017, 08:02 PM   #89
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May 22-24 vs BOSTON
Rolling along at 20-22, fourth place and 7.5 games back. Pitching has been stout, third in runs against, but hitting is troublesome: 16th in runs for and OBP, 15th in AVG. CF and leadoff hitter David Holpp leads with 11 HR and 30 RBI, and 1B Carlos Beltran, Jr, is hitting .325. SP Tony Villarruel is listed as the #1 pitcher in MLB, and was the prize catch in free agency over the winter, but has yet to find his way: 5-3, 4.04 ERA. Kris Harvey is in his 12th season as manager, and as usual, is helming a cast of unhappy campers. Favorite name: in a league largely devoid of interesting Latin names, AA 2B Xalbador Arellan is here for you.

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (5-3, 3.62) / Eric Jones (3-3, 5.37) / Billy Heine (3-4, 3.81)
BOS pitchers: Manny Gomez (2-2, 3.80) / Kazuya Matsuoka (2-5, 5.80) / Robby Liantonio (3-2, 6.43)

#46: WIN 8-7 ... the bullpen really wanted to give this one away, yielding 3 runs in the 8th, until Diaz and Hunter single in runs in the 9th for the walk-off win
#47: WIN 4-1 ... Jones holds the Sox hitless over six (and K's 10), while Rifkind and Hunter collect two hits each...nice, solid, quiet win for once
#48: LOSS 2-13 ... 12 hits for each team, but that run differential, jeez...Heine sucks balls and Piccirillo gives up 4 in 3 innings but lowers his ERA by 11 runs

Bad month for Heine, who's ERA has doubled in the last three weeks. There's no inbetween with him: he's either unhittable or the worst pitcher you've ever seen.... Hunter went 9-for-13 this series, raising his average by 30 points. He'll probably break his face in a motorcycle accident next week.... Holguin hurts his arm in game one, diagnosis pending.... ELSEWHERE: Oakland knocks eight home runs in a 20-7 rout of Detroit. They managed those runs on just 18 total hits.... Pittsburgh (33-14) and Minnesota (32-16) continue to pace their respective leagues in win pct. Houston is dragging anchor at 11-37 now, and 3-19 this month.


May 25-27 @ NY YANKEES
Our annual trek to The Babe's House. The Yanks are last in the East, at 18-30. They lost a lot of WAR this off-season, and it's showing across the board: 15th in runs for and AVG, 13th in runs against, 14th in starter's ERA. 1B Peter Bowden leads the team in most categories (.295/11/25), but no one else is hitting above .274. Only one starting pitcher has an ERA below 4.24, but the bullpen has been good, standing at 4th in the AL. New owner Justin Dielman favors EXTREME WINNING, and has given GM Joe Martinez five goals, none of which have been met, but is EXTREMELY HAPPY. Manager Miguel Rodriguez is in his fourth year, but has an unhappy clubhouse and only two players who like him. Favorite name: monocle-wearing rookie ball closer Preston Thurm.

HAW pitchers: Jim Kieffer (2-3, 3.86) / Mike Messinger (0-0, 0.00) / Leon Casillas (5-3, 3.82)
NYY pitchers: Pat Teer (2-2, 3.45) / Justin Darrisaw (2-4, 5.88) / Zachary Setaro (3-5, 4.24)

#49: LOSS 4-5 ... a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the 8th looks pretty good, except when our bullpen gets involved...Key blows another one, ERA up to 7.31 now
#50: LOSS 6-10 ... take a guess at how we lost this game, in 11 innings and with a 6-4 lead in the 8th. Go ahead, I'll wait.
#51: LOSS 3-4 ... Jesus tapdancing Christ the bullpen does it AGAIN, giving up one in the 9th and losing it in the 11th. CAN ANYONE READING THIS PITCH? EMAIL ME.

Holy Crap what a sh*tshow. Our last four games from the bullpen: 12.1 IP, 18 H, 17 R. Untenable, and unbelievable, frankly. So the trades have started, three in the last three days. First, before this series we send two unremarkable pitching prospects to Brooklyn for 2B Kevin Collins, who can hit, has a teensy bit of power, but plays second like you'd expect a mid-size rock would. Still, since we got the news on Holguin (out six weeks) and I didn't like our replacement options, I felt this was necessary. Collins is a prankster, and signed for two more years, so maybe he'll lighten the mood and stick around for a while. Second, I send AAA reliever Evan Larkins (who looks good but has never done squat for me in four seasons) to Richmond for reliever Ramon Archila. Ramon's got great stuff, keeps the ball down, and has nice intangibles. Having a down year (5.13 ERA), but he's still been better than most of what we've trotted out there so far. Finally, Ryan Key's ass is moved out, after three games with an infinite ERA. I ship him across the clubhouse to the Yankees, along with minor league "stud" Jorge Escalante (he of the 27.00 ERA for us in April) for reliever (you're seeing a trend here, yes?) Ricky Jimenez, another high-stuff guy. Also in a down year, but I love his control (2 BB in 27 IP) and pitches. So I've either lit some fires under this team, or am halfway to actually lighting them all on fire.... ELSEWHERE: Houston's won three straight now, only 10 games behind us. LOOK OUT! I'm only sort of kidding.... Somehow I've missed the fact that Pittsburgh is now riding a 16-game winning streak. Sure to end now that I've noticed it, of course. Oh, and when did it start? By sweeping us. YOU'RE WELCOME, PIRATES FANS.


May 28-30 @ BALTIMORE
Yet another team treading water (25-25, 9 games out), I can't wait to see how we blow these games. (Yes I can.) Sixth in runs scored, but 12th in AVG; 7th in runs against, but with the 12th "best" rotation and 4th best bullpen. (Bullpens: How do they work?) Raul Trevino, who won 20 games in 2038 and arguably should've taken the Cy Young that year, has been their best pitcher and yet was in the pen for most of the spring, and is currently their #5 starter. Catcher Juan Jimenez is having another bang up year (.311/18/40) after last season's 45 HR barrage. Nestor Corredor is managing his fifth year with the team, and had his only winning season last year (91 wins). Favorite name: a three way tie! AAA reliever Zach McIe (is that an 'I' or an 'l'?); future prep school head coach Tanner Hotchkiss; and Big 10 defensive lineman Ken Kronk.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (4-3, 4.83) / Billy Heine (3-5, 4.76) / Jim Kieffer (2-3, 3.80)
BAL pitchers: Raul Trevino (3-0, 2.65) / Miguel Moreno (5-4, 4.03) / Rob Sczesny (4-4, 4.27)

#52: WIN 10-6 ... why, yes, the pen did give up two runs, and Jones was horrific...but the hitters overcame all that, led by Mercedes' 7th-inning Grand Slam
#53: WIN 5-2 ... Heine the Great shows up for this one, although he does walk six...Collins makes the first of what will be many, many errors at second...Mercedes another HR
#54: WIN 4-2 ... I've seen these false dawns before. I'm not buying it this time, nosiree...McArthur hurts his arm, dtd for two weeks, dangit

LOLWUT. Where did that come from? Anyway, we're back at .500 and I've stopped self-harming for the moment.... On the injury front, Carillo tweaks his back for a 4-day dtd annoyance, and McArthur nearly throws out his shoulder from the warning track. He has to play, but I move him out of center.... ELSEWHERE: Pittsburgh reeled off 18 in a row before last night's 16-3 shellacking by Richmond.... And speaking of the Eagles, they sacked manager Buster Posey and GM Justin Greene three days ago. Posey, who had been bench coach for nine years and was in his third as manager, was quoted as saying "I jumped through hoops for this organization and this is how I'm repaid?" GM Greene was in his tenth season, after serving as my Assistant GM before I left the team. They're replaced by GM Andres Edwards Perez and Manager Joe Thatcher, neither of whom bring any experience whatsoever to their new jobs.


May 31, June 1-3 vs OAKLAND
BIG SERIES BOYS. Oakland has been surging (winning 7 of their last 10) and is tied with Texas for the division lead, at 31-22. Strong hitting (3rd in runs and AVG), and good-enough pitching (7th in runs and starter's ERA). Their bugaboo? A 17th-ranked bullpen, JUST AHEAD OF US! (GET 'EM FELLAS!) They're still hurting, with five players on the DL, but top guys Vinny Vargas (.394/10/26 in 99 AB) and Nick Robinson (.308/6/19 in 130 AB) are recently back from injury. Four starters are hitting .300, so the attack is a balanced one. I really wanna take down these smug jerks. No reason. Our second series with them, and they swept us last time.

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (0-0, 7.20) / Leon Casillas (5-3, 3.67) / Eric Jones (4-3, 4.98) / Billy Heine (4-5, 4.46)
OAK pitchers: Ricky Hose (7-3, 3.68) / Fernando Pena (2-2, 5.44) / Matt Bienvenu (4-3, 3.55) / Tom DiFranco (2-5, 5.27)

#55: LOSS 7-10 ... it may be too soon for Messinger, as he's hammered again...four runs given up by the funsters in the pen too...Groff goes 4-for-5 tho, with 4 RBI
#56: WIN 4-0 ... ohhhhhh, yes. Sweet Casillas with a 4-hit shutout...I may try to force all my starters to go nine innings...Dunklee and Mercedes homer, but we suffer three injuries
#57: WIN 7-2 ... Groff homers twice and Jones allows just two hits (with 11 K) over seven...no injuries this game, but a lot of guys hurting right now
#58: WIN 13-5 ... five more homers, including two more for Groff...we score enough that another ninth inning bullpen meltdown doesn't cost us this time

Well well well, that was a surprise. Dynamite hitting this series; Groff alone went 10-for-16 with 4 HR and 12 RBI. The bullpen is still mega-erratic though; but tremendous hitting overcomes pretty much anything.... Injuries are mounting: CF McArthur has a shoulder tweak for 1-2 weeks, can't throw much; RF Wiggins has a bad elbow for another week, also can't throw much; new 2B Collins broke his head, to moderate effect across the board, so I may actually have to sit him. At least Hunter's injury was just for a day, so he missed no time. But, fun fact: Hunter and Collins went out in the same game. I only have one backup IF, John Canning. He replaced Hunter. Collins' replacement? Reliever Ronnie Corgan, who played two innings and fielded two chances flawlessly. (Note that he's only pitched 0.2 innings this summer).... ELSEWHERE: Aw, Miami. They've been hanging tough with the Jays all year, just a game out, and now they've gone and lost their two best players, Ricky Beard (.350/11/31 in 117 AB) and Sergio Torres (15 HR, 41 RBI) for the season and six weeks, respectively.... Houston is on the move! A recent surge has brought them to 18-40 for a smooth (but improved!) win pct of .310.


June 4-6 @ HOUSTON
Well, speak of the devil(s). We should continue our recent hot play against these guys, but will we? Ha ha, why would you ask that? Bad hitting, bad pitching, but decent fielding. Six players on the DL, four of them starters, two of them closers. RF Paul Carlson is 33 and has lost a lot of his stroke and gap power, but is having quite the year, all things considered: .276/17/38. SP Jay Russo is just back from the DL, and has given up just one run over 12 innings in his two appearances. He's the last non-Casillas to win the AL Cy Young award, back in 2037.

HAW pitchers: Jim Kieffer (2-3, 3.71) / Mike Messinger (0-1, 9.64) / Leon Casillas (6-3, 3.27)
HOU pitchers: Nelson Gonzalez (3-5, 4.11) / Khalil Palmer (3-8, 6.55) / Jay Russo (2-0, 0.73)

#59: LOSS 2-4 ... ah, old times: a four-run 8th for the 'stros and the pen is full of goats again
#60: WIN 6-5 ... six runs on five HR, including two each for Mercedes and Henkel...a 6-2 lead gets whittled down late, but Houston runs out of innings; also suffers three injuries
#61: LOSS 0-4 ... Russo is on fire, simple as that...Canning gets three hits, rest of team gets two

Boy, these guys are a buzzkill this season. I think I've aged ten years these last five weeks. I don't understand how we can bash the A's around and then drop two out of three to the worst team in the league. I already need a long vacation.... I reluctantly put Collins on the DL and call up IF Steve Douglas, a 23-year-old former 4th round pick who made his big league debut this series (going 1-for-4 with a double). Decent contact, hits a lot of line drives, but little power and plate discipline. Strong arm, but a so-so fielder otherwise. I might see if he can pitch too.... ELSEWHERE: Brooklyn reliever Drew Yaeger will miss 12 months with a concussion suffered after missing a high five with an unnamed teammate. That's, um, creative.


AL WEST STANDINGS
OAK ... 34-25 --
TEX ... 35-26 --
HAW ... 31-30 4
LAA ... 28-32 6.5
SEA ... 26-33 8
HOU ... 20-41 15

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Old 11-12-2017, 01:19 PM   #90
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2040 Draft

There was some nice talent at the top of this draft...all of which was gone by the time we were on the board. Tampa took 2B Chuck McDaniel first overall: nice hitter, little power, and should be a DH given his startling proclivity to miss groundballs. Third overall (by Austin) Pooky Imel looks to me to be the best of the lot, with a huge bat and Gold Glove potential. The best pitcher? No real standouts, beyond a handful of near-clone starting pitchers, none of whom look like aces-to-be without some overdevelopment. So I'll take #19 pick Jeff Foley, a future league-best closer, I'd bet.

For us, by, oh, round ten or so there was really nothing to pick from, beyond the usual raft of high intangible players who you just pick and hope to strike gold (or at least bronze) with one of them. We had no picks in the 4th or 10th rounds due to trades.

Round 1, 30th overall: OF Jim Klein, 20, Panola College. What is a Panola College? I dunno either, but Klein does look decent. [Ed: It's a community college in Texas. How many CC players get picked in the first round?] Nice contact and gap, but no home run power. Speedy and a good defender, suited for either left or center. A nice pick for the end of the round.

Round 2, 80th overall: P Mike Bennett, 20, Florida International. Will probably move him to the outfield, as he's a near clone of Klein. He's just average as a pitcher, probably somewhere between AA and AAA. Not as fast and about 3/4 the fielder that Klein is, but I still like him.

Round 3, 117th overall: 3B Andy Bridges, 22, Dallas Baptist. Versatile, with good fielding across the entire infield and the outfield. Decent hitting potential, with no power and no discipline, however. Likely a career--but useful--backup, or a starter if you're rebuilding or just terrible.

Round 5, 191st overall: 1B Mike Hernandez, 18, Louisville. Fairly average hitter, with decent power, but is flat out useless in the field. Might switch him to the bullpen, where he's above average right now, but with his smarts and work ethic could become something special...or close enough, anyway. Failed to sign with Pittsburgh as a sixth round pick last year.

Round 6, 227th overall: P Steve Just, 21, Rice. Good stuff and movement, control needs work. Strictly bullpen. Lefty, smart kid, could turn out better than anticipated. Good enough to start in Short A, could see time in A ball by September.

Round 7, 263rd overall: P Nate Moore, 18, high school. Maybe just a step below Just, and doesn't throw with much velo (89 mph) right now. Lefty. Works hard, tho, so could overcome. Keeping throwing darts, hope one is a bullseye, is the motto.

Round 8, 299th overall: P Jim Perry, 20, New York Tech. Listed as a closer, but doesn't have the stuff to succeed in that role in the majors. Control could be better. Another lefty.

Round 9, 335th overall: SS Justin Schlitz, 19, St. Louis. Will need every bit of his high work ethic to succeed. Average hitter, no power, but a good eye. Rangy fielder but glove is just average. I don't expect you to remember this guy, I probably won't either.

After these guys, it's all a crapshoot. Let's not tread on anyone's dignity by exposing faults and making fun.

......

Prospect Overview
MLB says we have the 5th best prospect pool in the game, but I don't see it, I guess. It's probably just down to our top guy, as we have a good crop of role players and the usual pile of 'maybes.' Our top prospect, tho, looks pretty dang good.

1. P Mike Messinger, 23, MLB 2nd overall. If his control develops, has ace potential. That control tho...the usual bane of young pitchers. Elite changeup, very good forkball. Needs to grow, but has shown flashes in Hawaii last year and this, and has been dominant in AAA before his recent callup. I want him to be ready for the rotation next year.

2. P Cam Bornhoft, 23, MLB 34th overall. Not a hard thrower (91 mph max), but has a dangerous curve and change. Not the greatest movement, so will need all of his still developing control. Struggled in a 3-game stint earlier this season for us, but did have 20K (and just 5 BB) in 22.2 IP. Lost some ground due to injury last year, making just 5 AAA starts. Would love for him to put it all together and solidify the rotation next year, along with Messinger.

3. OF Ian McGowan, 23, MLB 46th overall. Has missed a lot of time this year, making just 17 starts in AAA to now. Still has some room to grow at the plate, and could become a bottom of the lineup regular. Excellent fielder, great range. If his hitting rounds out, probably my future center fielder. Bonus: a sparkplug player.

4. P Taylor Barnett, 21, MLB 165th overall. Last year's 1st round pick is grinding along through the system, now in A ball, where he's been subpar. Has five pitches, none of them dominant. Looks like no more than a #4 or #5 starter right now, if that.

5. P Roberto Castaneda, 23. One of those guys my scouts like more than I do. Fabulous curveball, but oddly has only average movement. Really a reliever, but has been a starter in the minors, and a pretty decent one. Signed as a minor league free agent, so maybe that's why I'm not attached to him.

Also keep an eye on...
...IF Steve Douglas, 23. Has hit well in the minors (.320 across A/AA last year, .279 in AAA this year), but looks more like a line drive hitter who might reach .270 in a good year. No power. Bit of a free swinger, but won't strike out at least. Strong arm, but lack of range limits him to corner infield positions only. Now in Hawaii due to a rash of infielder injuries, got a double in his first start. Fourth round pick in 2035.
...OF Steve Hopkins, 22. First rounder from 2038, he's blossomed as a contact hitter and has swiftly climbed the ranks, batting .310 in AAA to date. Also a solid fielder with a strong arm...and our fifth highest ranked starting pitcher prospect.
...RP Ronnie Corgan, 23. Has been brilliant in AAA, but fell prey to the curse that's killing the 2040 Islander bullpen during his brief callup. Did manage two innings at second base, however. Third round pick from 2036.

......

Just over a month from the All-Star game, and we've got a stretch of 30 games with just two days off over that time. We're off to LA for a four-game stint against the Angels, then our final three series of interleague play.

Healthwise, we're a little banged up. 2B Josh Robertson is gone for the year, newly acquired 2B Kevin Collins is out for over a month, and sub IF Danny Holguin for exactly a month. John Canning has been a nice surprise filling in for, well, all three of them, hitting .325 in 77 AB thus far. Two outfielders are playing through dtd injuries, Chris Wiggins and Travis McArthur. Risky, I know, but they're so critical to our offense that I'm taking the chance. Barring complications, Wiggins will be fine after the LA series, McArthur after the following series. My fingers are crossed. SP Rob Hart comes off the DL tomorrow, but I'll probably give him a rehab stint to shake off his rust. I'm more than ready for him to regain his rookie form from 2038.
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Old 11-12-2017, 08:54 PM   #91
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June 7-10 @ LA ANGELS
Rebuilding after several dismal years, the Angels are at least respectable this year, at 28-32. Heck, they're only 2.5 games behind us. Hitting is not their forte, 17th in runs and 11th in AVG, but pitching has been a tower of strength. They're first in runs allowed, with the rotation 2nd in ERA and bullpen ranked 1st. SS Danny Gipson is healthy for the first time in three years, and is hitting .339 from the leadoff spot. 22-year-old future MVP Tony Mendoza is only hitting .251, but is on pace for 30 HR. Since hitting is our strength, and our bullpen is solid like fondue, this should be an interesting matchup series.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (5-3, 4.50) / Billy Heine (4-5, 4.58) / Jim Kieffer (2-3, 3.39) / Mike Messinger (1-1, 6.91)
LAA pitchers: Greg Langworthy (6-4, 3.23) / Josh Singleton (5-4, 4.55) / Leonardo Vigil (6-3, 4.25) / Jeff Caraway (6-4, 2.87)

#62: WIN 8-7 ... four homers, including two for Henkel (12 on the year)...Jones is butt, and Powers gives up 6 H and 2 BB in 2.2 IP, but only one run
#63: WIN 2-1 ... Dunklee solo shot in the 9th wins it, and Heine goes 8 IP with 11 K, 5 H
#64: WIN 5-1 ... Kieffer tosses a complete game four-hitter...McArthur's dtd injury worsens, so Carillo starts in center, gets 3 hits
#65: LOSS 0-9 ... Messinger is clearly not ready, and reliever Yates, at 37, may be done (3 IP, 5 R)

Looked pretty good until that last blowout; still, 3 out of 4 works, giving us a bit of separation from LA, and now just 5.5 games behind Oakland....McArthur hits the bench as his shoulder injury continues to linger, Mel Carillo gets to start in his place. He's not an ideal CF, but he'll do.... Not sure what to do about the #5 spot in the rotation, as both Messinger and Bornhoft have flamed out, and Hart was awful in his first rehab start. We'll see.... ELSEWHERE: Pittsburgh's Jordan Shields is gunning to be the second consecutive NLer to win a triple crown: at .392/22/54, he's only second in RBI right now.... I've picked on Pirates pitching for two seasons now (and they were last in the league in 2039), but right now they're 4th in the NL in runs allowed, with a +113 run diff.... After a promising April, Austin has now lost six straight and has dropped to last in the NL West.


June 12-14 @ CINCINNATI
The Reds look a lot like the Angels: a few games under .500, can't hit (17th in runs), but with solid pitching (5th in runs allowed). Only one batter is hitting above .290, and the lineup has been so fluid that only one batter has at least 190 PA. But their bullpen: 3.92 is the highest ERA, which compares very favorably to our excuse for a pen (only one pitcher with an ERA below 4.66). Local boy Dan Remenowsky is the manager, in his 11th season, but is struggling for results after two straight 90-win seasons. Favorite name: although I do like Cole Crunk, I have to go with A ball SS Cortez Flores, no relation to our own AAA 2B Cortez Florez.

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (6-4, 3.28) / Eric Jones (5-3, 4.93) / Billy Heine (5-5, 4.24)
CIN pitchers: Ernie Brereton (4-5, 3.49) / Jarrod Kearns (6-3, 2.57) / Arturo Franco (8-4, 5.46)

#66: LOSS 5-9 ... Casillas gives up 4 in 5 IP, but they're all unearned...then the pen yields 5 in 3, continuing this year's fine tradition
#67: LOSS 3-5 ... ergh adfklweeidkfj...Momentum, what's that?
#68: WIN 7-2 ... Heine is suddenly acing it, 8 IP, 4 H, 10 K...Mercedes and Henkel homer, and Carillo goes 3-for-4

Ugh, we just can't build any momentum this year. Six weeks til the trade deadline, and we're hovering at just 2 games over .500, but only six games our of first. So you're saying there's a chance.... Aaron Glass is our current closer, and he looks good: 9 saves, 2.13 ERA. But get a load of the rest of the bullpen, current edition: 5.59, 4.66, 5.85, 5.23, 6.87, 8.27. On the season, we still have the worst bullpen ERA in the AL at 5.81. Diving deeper into the numbers: most HR given up, worst SLG, 2nd worst OBP. But the best GO%, so that's something.... ELSEWHERE: San Diego's Gary Florence is leading the pitching triple crown right now, and the Padres have ridden a six game winning streak to first place in the NL West.


June 15-17 @ MONTREAL
Battling Cincy for last place in the Central, and the opposite of the Reds: 3rd in AVG (but just 9th in runs), 11th in runs against (and 17th in rotation ERA). 3B Matt Anderson (.284/17/50) continues to be their best hitter, and SS Bobby Moore (.311/11/40) has also been good. SP Rafael Maldonado (2.60, 113 K, 90 IP) is just an attitude adjustment away from being the best pitcher in the game, but the rest of the rotation has been disappointing. Michael Ryan is in his 8th season as manager, but with a 'worried' owner and a last place team, his days could be numbered. Favorite name: I'm a sucker for alliteration, so I'll go with either Brandon Benberry or Josh Jolly.

HAW pitchers: Jim Kieffer (3-3, 3.07) / Jeff Longobardo (0-0, 0.00) / Leon Casillas (6-4, 3.10)
MTL pitchers: Ruben Villasenor (3-7, 5.68) / Rafael Maldonado (8-5, 2.60) / Bailey McFarland (3-7, 5.38)

#69: WIN 5-2 ... Dunklee goes 3-for-5 with 2 RBI, Groff and Hunter stay hot with 2 hits apiece...Kieffer goes 8, Glass solid for his 10th save
#70: LOSS 5-6 ... Glass blows it in the 11th after we took the lead in the top of the inning...Henkel and Mercedes homer
#71: WIN 8-2 ... two late runs spoils the shutout, and Archila looks really bad again (nice trade by me huh)...three more hits for Hunter, two for Henkel

I'll take the two wins and get out of town. Continuing this season's obsession, the bullpen looked a little better this series. Not much, but just a little.... My current new #5 starter is now 34-year-old Jeff Longobardo, whom I signed in March as a useful end-of-career AAA pitcher. He started 15 games for Washington last year, faring poorly. On paper he looks no worse than anyone else I've trotted out there this summer. And he's already asked for a contract extension, so he's got chutzpah.... ELSEWHERE: San Diego's now won 9 straight.... Dodgers 2B Ty Cobb now has 3180 hits, just four behind Cal Ripken for 14th place all-time. He's also third with 2722 singles. Cardinals catcher Devlin Ransberger leads active players with 468 HR, tied for 40th with Chipper Jones.


June 18-20 vs NEW ORLEANS
Probably the surprise team of the year, at 42-28 and second to the red-hot Pirates. Our co-expansionists have never won more than 69 games in a season and won just 67 last year. Hitting has not been the strong suit this year, 11th in runs scored and just 15th in AVG and OBP (they're hitting .240, not great but 15 points better than last year). But they have the best pitching and defense in the NL right now, as nearly everyone is throwing well. No batters are standing out, but underrated starter Sam Thompson is having another quiet but effective season, at 9-4 with a 2.49 ERA and 84 K in 86.2 innings. Rolando Valles is the second-year manager, after three seasons as bench coach. (He previously won Manager of the Year in Boston way back in 2022.) Favorite name: strong run by the Hash brothers, Steve and Ron, but I'll pick Justin Heckenlively.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (5-4, 4.85) / Billy Heine (6-5, 4.06) / Jim Kieffer (4-3, 2.99)
NOZ pitchers: Sam Thompson (9-4, 2.49) / Ron Anderson (4-7, 3.21) / Tommy Dahlen (6-4, 3.39)

#72: LOSS 5-6 ... another extra inning loss....uuuuuugh, this one hurts...we outhit them 12-7 but get more hijinks out of the pen, and a dugout fight
#73: WIN 4-1 ... Heine is stout over 7 IP again, with 10 K and just 4 H...angry Carillo punches out 2 hits, after punching out Jones last night...Groff hits his 20th
#74: LOSS 6-15 ... Kieffer is bad tonight but the bullpen also gives up EIGHT...Henkel gets hit by a pitch, out for nearly two months

LOL where to start. 1) Henkel has been hot for us, hitting .282 and with 16 HR in 195 AB. Now he's out. 2) McArthur's been on the bench, trying to get healthy, but hasn't had a hit in nearly two weeks. I bite the bullet and put him on the DL too, with an unknown return date. 3) Summer acquisition Ramon Archila and his 12.27 ERA goes down to AAA and newly healthy Cory Taylor comes up, who then sprains his ankle and is dtd for two months. He too will go on the DL. 4) Taylor became the 15th reliever this year. Guess how many have ERA over 10? SEVEN. 5) Mel Carillo gets in a fight with pitcher Eric Jones, busting Jones' lip to the tune of five stitches. This is Carillo's second angry incident this year, after a fight with a fan in May. "High leadership" indeed.... The only good news is that Oakland got swept, so we actually picked up a game and are now 4 games out.... Callups: OF Ian McGowan and Dave White, and RP Ronnie Corgan.... ELSEWHERE: the NL Central is the only division with three 40-win teams: Pittsburgh (49-23), New Orleans (44-29), and Chicago (42-32).
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Old 11-16-2017, 08:48 PM   #92
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June 21-24 @ HOUSTON
This bears repeating: since this dynasty started in 2014, Houston has made the playoffs just once: a 92-win season in 2018. Since then: 3 winning seasons (85 wins the highest), 7 times in the division basement, and a mere 1.5M home fans last season. They had a nice little revival earlier this month, starting June at 7-3, including two wins from us; since then, 1-8. Team defense and speed are the only bright spots, as they haven't been hitting, and are now last in runs allowed. If there's a silver lining, it's having four prospects in the top 100, including three solid SP prospects, and a solid SS in Dan Phoenix. The team is also feuding for some reason, surprising since no one on this planet could have expected them to be competitive.

HAW pitchers: Jeff Longobardo (0-0, 6.00) / Leon Casillas (7-4, 2.92) / Eric Jones (5-4, 4.88)
HOU pitchers: Jay Russo (4-1, 0.86) / Jonathan Caldera (3-9, 6.46) / Jason Ray (1-5, 5.77)

#75: LOSS 0-4 ... Jay Russo's last two games against us: 16 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 16 K
#76: LOSS 3-8 ... sure why not
#77: LOSS 9-10 ... only a four-run ninth makes this look close...pen gives up seven more runs...Mercedes parks two, has three in this series
#78: LOSS 4-6 ... yep yep yep, we definitely got everyone riiight where we want 'em now

"Islanders Drop Another One" is the headline after that last game. Understatement is a lost art. We're 38-40 now, in danger of falling to fourth, behind LA, if you can believe that sentence.... ELSEWHERE: Minnesota is on top in the Central at 50-27, and Peanuts Carter is having another great year: .387/19/65 and a 5.0 WAR.


June 25-28 vs TEXAS
The Rangers have been the team I thought we'd be this year: solid hitting and good-enough pitching. They're 42-35, 1.5 games behind Oakland, and sporting a +50 run diff. The offensive stars have been Luis Olivo (.303/15/51) and Nate Lobdell (.285/18/55), and leadoff man Todd McNearney has also chipped in 10 HR. Pitching has been pretty run-of-the-mill, but there's talent enough to keep them more than competitive. Pitcher Alex Mares is in the hunt for Rookie of the Year, at 7-4, 3.89, 90 IP, 92 K.

HAW pitchers: Jim Kieffer (4-4, 3.60) / Jeff Longobardo (0-1, 6.55) / Leon Casillas (7-5, 3.12) / Eric Jones (5-4, 4.91)
TEX pitchers: Kevin Becker (6-7, 5.06) / Jamie Bell (6-6, 5.51) / Seth Purdy (4-7, 4.87) / Jeff Sullivan (6-5, 4.75)

#79: WIN 8-3 ... Groff goes 4-for-5 with 2 RBI, Kieffer throws a solid six innings, and the bullpen forgets themselves and tosses three scoreless frames
#80: WIN 9-8 ... five in the sixth and three in the ninth and we're back to .500...Mercedes hits his 30th...Longobardo is probably Longo-gone-o after this one
#81: WIN 5-4 ... wut? we tie it in the 8th, keep it alive in the 10th, and win it in the 12th on Groff's RBI single...Casillas is meh, aloowing 11 H in 7 IP
#82: WIN 6-3 ... Jones continues to struggle, but the bullpen comes through again! I dunno how either...Hunter with three hits, Groff 2 more RBI

Like I said above, I dunno. Apologies to Texas for effing up their road trip; now we're just half a game behind them.... Also, Longobardo goes back in AAA, and Rob Hart comes back from his rehab stint, where he alternated good and bad starts.... Lineup tweaks: Wiggins (and his .289 OBP) is out of the leadoff slot, down to eighth; Hunter is now up top. Wiggins' average then went up ten points this series, so yay me?.... No mid-season review; I'll do something like that at the All-Star break.... ELSEWHERE: After sweeping us, Houston turned around and got swept by Oakland, dropping the 'stros to 27-54. Still, they're not as bad as the Nationals, at 24-54 and riding a nine-game losing streak.


June 29-30, July 1 vs TAMPA BAY
Our first look at the Rays this season, who don't look like much at 37-42; but they've been 15-12 this month. Just 13th in runs scored, 16th in runs against, and a -81 run diff, so the team stats don't look great either. DH Andy Catron has been a one-man band on offense, at .286/20/50. Only one other batter is hitting over .250. Dee Brown is their second-year manager, and at least has improved upon last year's 52-win season. Favorite name: Sean Sly. Ugh, boring.

HAW pitchers: Billy Heine (7-6, 4.11) / Jim Kieffer (5-4, 3.45) / Rob Hart (2-2, 4.15)
TBR pitchers: Jimmy Wunderlich (3-10, 5.79) / Jordan Sanchez (3-5, 5.38) / Wes Lipinski (6-6, 4.80)

#83: WIN 4-1 ... Heine is definitely not butt over seven, the pen is good again, and TB helps us out with three errors
#84: WIN 10-5 ... Carillo stops punching teammates long enough to get four hits, and we hold on after building a 10-1 lead early
#85: WIN 6-2 ... suddenly we have a seven-game winning streak...Hart Ks 12 in his return, Canning drives in four from the 9th spot

Well, look at that. For the first time since I can't remember when, we're five games over .500, but Oakland has won six straight so we're still 5 in back of them.... Owner Alexis Pagan leaves a message on my machine: "How many teams make the playoffs when they lose as much as we do?" You gotta admit, the man has insight.... McArthur is back from the DL, and Dave White goes back to AAA. Danny Holguin was due to come off today, but has been given an 'unknown' return date now.... Alexis Mercedes (.375/17/29 in June) is AL Player of the Month, and injured Jesse Henkel is ROM.... It's International Free Agent signing time! We have no restrictions this year; more on the class shortly.... ELSEWHERE: Yes, Oakland has been winning too, but I don't care, as long as we're getting better. Our division is the only one without a 50-win team.... Miami's won 9 of 10 to close to 4.5 behind Toronto; the Mets have also gone 9-1 of late and are now up by 10 over Philly.... Padres ace Gary Florence is still sporting a nifty 1.77 ERA, to go along with 13 wins and 141 K (all are tops in the NL).


July 3-5 vs TORONTO
After an indifferent 79-win season in 2039, the Jays have bounced back to a 51-30 mark, good for first in the East. Hitting has been just average, 9th in average and runs, but they've hit 132 home runs. Three players have topped 20 HR already, and one more has 19. Pitching and defense, however, are tops in the AL. And they have four pitchers on the DL, three done for the season. That's depth. Three-time Cy Young winner Dave Henderson is only 8-7, but he's 2nd in ERA and has a 0.91 WHIP. All-Everyting 1B Preston Sorensen became the team's all-time HR leader this season, passing Carlos Delgado. Mike Johns has been the manager for nine seasons now, only missing the playoffs last year. Favorite name: ehhhh....Ryan Brought, I guess. Dull system, this.

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (7-5, 3.17) / Eric Jones (6-4, 4.90) / Billy Heine (8-6, 3.93)
TOR pitchers: Joe Erkel (8-4, 5.13) / Ben Kaelin (6-4, 4.38) / Dave Henderson (8-7, 2.71)

#86: LOSS 3-5 ... Casillas is just not himself this season, and we make it close late but can't get it done
#87: WIN 2-1 ... McArthur makes his return to the regular lineup with a 9th-inning walkoff blast...Dunklee also homers
#88: WIN 4-1 ... Heine scatters four hits over eight innings and McArthur with two more hits and an RBI...Glass gets his 13th save

And just like that, we're 9-1 nearing the break, and 47-41 overall. Oakland's also hot, so we've gained no ground on them (still 6.5 back), but I'd rather play well and let things fall where they will.... Don't look now, but after Mercedes' amazing June, he's leading MLB with 33 HR.... Kevin Collins comes off the DL tomorrow, but Mike Hunter has back spasms, that may limit him for about a week. He's been really hot lately, but I might be forced to sit him for the next series, just to be safe.... ELSEWHERE: Milwaukee's Bill Salazar is done for the year...again. Signed in 2037 to an 8-year, $152M deal, he's made just 50 starts since (inluding 2 this year). A rehab setback has him shelved until next spring. If I'd had that cash in '37, I'd be the one lamenting his injuries instead.... An 8-2 record in their last ten has the Mets 10.5 up on Brooklyn, the largest division lead right now.


July 6-8 @ MIAMI
Hot early, then went through a 3-14 stretch in early June, but appear to be back on track with 7 wins in their last 10. Just 4.5 games behind Toronto, and trying to make the playoffs for the first time in their 25-year history. Sixth in runs scored, and third in home runs, despite missing their top two hitters. 1B Trey Joslin (.299/14/55), CF Justin Molnar (.311/25/64), and 2B Dan Callender (.298/14/48) are the big guns. Just fourth in runs against, with the third best rotation. Nobody jumps out at you, but everyone on the staff has contributed, more than I can say for some teams (ahem). Despite having just three winning seasons to his credit, somehow GM Jayson Werth is in his 12th year, while manager Tony Diaz enters his third. Favorite name: Noe Nino? Eh. Gilbert Gabbard? Close. Justin Disney? Rob Clingenpeel? Brad Metro? How about three guys named Matt Davis? There it is.

HAW pitchers: Jim Kieffer (6-4, 3.65) / Rob Hart (3-2, 3.93) / Leon Casillas (7-6, 3.38)
MIA pitchers: Levi Brady (8-5, 4.90) / Matt Rubin (9-4, 3.30) / Chris Keast (4-6, 4.84)

#89: LOSS 10-20 ... yep, two touchdowns and a pair of field goals...Zach Randolph line: 1.2 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 1 BB; his ERA went up by 2 runs
#90: LOSS 1-4 ... that's more like it: outhit the other guys and still lose...Hart goes all 8 innings, manages 11 K but 5 BB
#91: WIN 8-5 ... well that salvages some pride, at least...Casillas is meh once again, but the pen actually earns its keep, shutting down an 8th inning rally

Not a real dynamite performance on the mound this series. The starters in particular got knocked around.... With Hunter's injury, Wiggins moves back up to the leadoff slot, where he hasn't done much this year. His average is up the last couple of weeks, but he still has a negative WAR and his slugging and OBP are way down.... Kevin Collins, on the other hand, comes off the DL and goes 6-for-11. It's too bad he has "hands like pitchforks," or he might be worth keeping around next year.... Single A Eureka has five outfielders on the DL right now.... ELSEWHERE: At the All-Star Break, Minnesota (58-31) and Pittsburgh (57-31) are the class of their leagues, while Washington (26-61) and Houston (31-59) are the dregs.... Minny's Peanuts Carter is still raking, leading the AL at a .386 clip and with 5.8 WAR.... White Sox P Jason Henry is following up his 6.59 ERA from last year with a stellar 6.92 over 18 starts, the worst among qualified starters in MLB.... More Sox madness: Chicago's Hideyuki Asano has the worst K/BB ratio (1.3, or 68/52) in the bigs, over 108 IP.... And before you think I'm just picking on the Sox, feast on some Cubs numbers: SS Jordan Cruz and 1B Willie Jaramillo have combined for 247 K in 608 AB. Cruz continues to amaze: see his career card below, and somehow he's held on to the leadoff spot for five years running now. How this teams remains competitive (53-38, 2nd in the NL Central) sometimes escapes me. Especially as they added C Edgar Cantu to the lineup. He does have some power (15 HR in 258 AB) but is slashing .194/.296/.399 from the #2 slot in the lineup.
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Old 11-18-2017, 03:56 PM   #93
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All-Star Break...

...or, Pause and Take a Break

All Stars!
Two players are voted into starting roles, and one is a coach's addition. SP Leon Casillas and 3B Adam Groff make their fifth and third AS games, respectively. C Alexis Mercedes is added as one of three AL catchers. Side note: Cubs reliever Raleigh Vance, an Original Islander(tm) is named to his first AS roster. He seriously underperformed for us, but has gone on to have three decent seasons (with Philly) as a closer, and is having a very solid year (56 IP, 1.28 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 1.4 WAR) for the Cubbies. Our old closer Jack Shewmake, now with the Dodgers, also makes the NL team.

The game itself...Played in Richmond, VA, the AL crushes the NL 10-1. Casillas doesn't end up pitching, which is fine by me. Have a rest, Leon. Mercedes hits a sac fly in the 7th and a two-run single in the 8th, and Groff goes 1-for-4, hitting a three-run home run in the 4th and taking the MVP award.

......

International Amateurs:
They're out, and probably the cream of the group is Dominican OF Luis Rivera. A solid contact hitter with good line drive--but no home run--power, he won't strike out, but has probably never reached base on a walk in his young life. Also a top-drawer fielder and runner, but he wants $5M out of the gate to sign. Is he worth busting the budget? I don't think so, and I will focus instead on decent quantity versus rolling the dice on one player. To start, I target four guys. First is pitcher Roberto Vieyra, with decent intangibles and who scouts as a future starter. Groundballer, with potential for four good pitches. Second, SS Jose Henriquez, who looks above average across the board (except eye, natch) at the plate, and is already a solid fielder. We have a real dearth of mid- to low-system middle infielders. Finally, I take chances on two catchers: Orlando Garcia and Alex Aguilar. Garcia looks more promising right now, and is a hard working guy. Aguilar has a much lower ceiling, but has such great intangibles (and better defense) that I decide to roll the dice on him. We have a real shortage of worthwhile catching prospects, so more darts at the board can't hurt.

Ten days later... Garcia and Aguilar sign right away. Good. Henriquez ups his demand to $2.1M, while Vieyra now wants $2M. Neither is good enough to keep going after both, so I gotta make a choice...and it's pitching. I'll pursue Vieyra and let Henriquez go. My bullpen struggles this year have only reinforced the truism YOU CAN'T HAVE ENOUGH PITCHING.

Ultimately...Henriquez signs with Arizona for $2M. Vieyra's price keeps going up, but we eventually nab him for the near-outrageous sum of 2.9M. Eh, it's only money, right?

......

First "Half" Recap and Looking Forward
If I were to grade our first-half performance, I'd give it a C-. If I were grading on a curve--given our World Series title and my own preseason expectations--I'd give us a D-. On the positive side, we're back over .500 (48-43), and are at least in the hunt for the postseason, even though that's WAY off right now. Our hitting has been a plus all year, and we're currently 1st in AVG, 2nd in OBP and SLG, 3rd in runs, and 4th in HR. We've also struck out the fewest times in the AL. On the flip side...pitching pitching pitching. Yes, our rotation has the sixth best ERA, at 4.21. (But, just a month ago we were top 3.) We're fourth in strikeouts, too. But everything else is either bottom half or bottom quarter in the league. The bullpen, despite some better performances recently, has been a complete disaster. Despite our starter's efforts, we're 15th in runs allowed, and even with our crazy-good hitting have just a +14 run differential.

Remember how in late May I made three moves to fix our bullpen? Let's see how that's worked out so far:
RHP Ricky Jimenez -- acquired from NYY for Ryan Key
stats with NYY: 7.67, 9 GP, 4 GS, 27 IP, 42 H, 27 K, 2 BB, 1.0 HR/9
stats with HAW: 8.56, 11 GP, 0 GS, 13.2 IP, 19 H, 10 K, 7 BB, 2.6 HR/9
assessment: Key has been pretty good (18 IP, 3.00 ERA, 5 wins) for NY. Trade grade: FAIL

RHP Ramon Archila -- acquired from RIC for Evan Larkins
stats with RIC: 5.13, 24 GP, 26.1 IP, 30 H, 18 K, 16 BB
stats with HAW: 12.27, 3 GP, 3.2 IP, 6 H, 4 K, 5 BB
assessment: Archila was having a bad year, so we gambled here. He's in AAA now. Larkins has been so-so for Richmond. Trade grade: FAIL

RHP Ken Powers -- acquired from POR in the eight-player Alexis Mercedes deal
stats with POR: 7.31, 16 GP, 16 IP, 22 H, 15 K, 8 BB
stats with HAW: 3.96, 13 GP, 25 IP, 28 H, 18 K, 16 BB
assessment: walks a lot of guys, but overall has been okay. Mercedes has been a monster. Trade Grade: A

Okay, so one out of three is .333, which would make you a lot of money at the plate. Still, I hoped for better.

Looking forward, I'm sure we'll have the usual team-wide batting slump sometime soon. It happens every year. So we really, really need the pitching to get better. The pen has lowered its ERA from 5.91 to 5.58 in the past two weeks, so hooray for that at least. In the rotation, Casillas and Jones need to regain their #1 and #2 form, and Rob Hart needs to show that he wasn't just a rookie flash-in-the-pan.

......

Today, it's July 13th, and we begin a nine-game stint against Central Division teams before rounding out the month against Western compatriots. IF Danny Holguin comes off the DL, and will head to AAA for a rehab stint. Assuming no other injuries, I'll probably bring him up shortly and send down OF Ian McGowan. I thought about sending back IF John Canning, but he's hit .324 in 179 AB filling in at short and second. Plus, he can play outfield, so I'm thinking he'll stay up for now.
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Old 11-19-2017, 05:48 PM   #94
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July 13-15 vs KANSAS CITY
Coming off a run of ten playoff appearances in thirteen seasons, this year has been a struggle for the Royals. Currently 38-48 and 18.5 games behind the Twins, and teams stats are all over the place. Decent hitting--8th in AVG and HR--but just 15th in runs scored. Poor pitching from the rotation, 17th in ERA, but currently the best bullpen in the AL, and 10th in runs against. RF Eric Holz is the top hitter, at .288/10/31, and C Aaron Moffett has chipped in 19 HR. Closer Alex Castaneda is having an excellent year, with 20 saves and a 1.04 ERA. Old-timer Eli Guy is managing his 19th year for the team, and owner J.J. Parks is unhappy, with all five of his team goals going unmet. Favorite name: A ball no-hoper Steve Slaughter.

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (8-6, 3.52) / Billy Heine (9-6, 3.73) / Eric Jones (6-4, 4.66)
KCR pitchers: Francisco Duarte (6-8, 5.38) / Nick Boston (6-10, 5.20) / Chris Smolak (5-6, 4.65)

#92: LOSS 6-8 ... Casillas is still just eh (6.2 IP, 11 H, 4 R), and the pen does it again: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 R...McArthur suspended for 10 games
#93: WIN 7-3 ... Mercedes and Hullinger homer...Heine Ks 7 in 5.2 IP, Jimenez throws 3.1 shutout innings
#94: LOSS 1-8 ... five hits + three bad pitchers = another stupid loss

Not exactly a solid start after five days off. Pitching is still subpar, duh, plus three are now listed as "ice cold." Fab.... McArthur's suspension comes from starting a fight with Duarte after getting plunked.... Carillo gets a 4-day dtd groin pull; he still has to play, tho.... ELSEWHERE: Dodgers have won 8 straight, and have closed to just 4 back of San Diego.... Pittsburgh's Jordan Shields is named NL player of the week, and is the first in the NL to reach 30 HR. He's still atop the league with a .382 average.


July 16-18 @ CHICAGO WHITE SOX
The Sox look a lot like a lower-rent version of us: decent hitting (5th-7th across the board), paired with poor pitching (worst rotation, 12th bullpen). Okay, a much lower-rent version, as their record is 40-50, and run diff is -43. Only one starting pitcher has an ERA under 5. 2B Francisco Gervacio is the hitting star, with 23 HR and 65 RBI.

HAW pitchers: Jim Kieffer (6-5, 4.30) / Rob Hart (3-3, 4.01) / Leon Casillas (8-6, 3.62)
CHW pitchers: Jason Henry (3-8, 6.92) / Steve Miller (2-4, 2.74) / Hideyuki Asano (5-9, 5.15)

#95: WIN 6-4 ... Groff's 2-run shot in the 7th ties it, and Wiggins' triple in the 8th wins it...Carillo gets his second dtd injury in four days
#96: WIN 22-1 ... wow...only two of our guys don't get at least 2 hits...Dunklee with 6 RBI, Mercedes 5 (and 2 HR)...Groff sets a team record with 5 runs
#97: WIN 8-3 ... better game for Casillas (7 IP, 2 R, 9 K), and four hits for Groff

Nothing like a 22-run game to wash away a lot of bad feelings. Our sweep, coupled with Oakland getting swept, has us just 2.5 games behind them now.... Danny Holguin is just 3-for-33 in his AAA rehab stint.... ELSEWHERE: Portland has lost ten in a row, now tied with Austin for last in the NL West.... Oakland's Vinny Vargas missed the first month of the season but has been on fire since: .407/.500/.805, with 25 HR and 6.0 WAR in 231 AB.... LA's Ty Cobb has passed 3200 career hits, and is now only 35 hits behind Nap Lajoie for 13th all-time.


July 20-22 @ MINNESOTA
The top team in the AL currently, at 61-34, with a 5.5 game lead over the Tigers. First in runs scored (568) and home runs (156), 3rd in AVG and 2nd in OBP. Pitching is about average: 9th in runs, 6th best rotation, 11th bullpen. Peanuts Carter is having an awesome year (.380/23/76, 5.9 WAR), as has 3B Paul Foster (.287/27/78) and 1B Adam Woods (.301/20/70). Pitcher Chris Kruse has a snappy 14-1 record, but otherwise looks pretty modest for a #2 starter. Original Islander(tm) Chance Muller is the #4 starter, and has the best staff ERA, 3.46.

HAW pitchers: Billy Heine (9-6, 3.78) / Eric Jones (6-5, 4.77) / Jim Kieffer (6-5, 4.40)
MIN pitchers: Chris Kruse (14-1, 3.55) / Chris Varo (6-7, 5.09) / Ben Martin (7-8, 5.16)

#98: WIN 10-2 ... three hits for Hunter, and four hits (plus 3 RBI) for Carillo...Heine goes 7.2, five hits (but four walks)
#99: WIN 11-9 ... Jones stinks again, Powers nearly blows it in the 9th (6 H, 5 R), but we get 17 hits, including Collins' 3-run blast early
#100: WIN 9-1 ... Kieffer tosses a nice and easy 7-hitter and Dunklee and Collins go deep...sixteen hits this game, and we're now ten games over .500

Well I didn't expect this. Cooling off the hot Twins like this and us now with a six-game winning streak. Just 1.5 behind Oakland too.... Top prospect Mike Messinger is pitching well in AAA (16 G, 90 IP, 63 H, 103 K, 2.30 ERA), but is getting no run support and is just 2-6.... ELSEWHERE: San Diego's Gary Florence just tossed his sixth shutout of the year, a 2-0 four-hitter over Richmond.... Feuding teams: Baltimore, KC, Cleveland, Oakland (!), Seattle, Houston, Washington. Sparkplug teams: Milwaukee, White Sox (two! Both look excellent), Oakland, New Orleans. In general, bad teams are unhappy, good ones are 'content' at least. Except Oakland: leading their division, with two captains, a sparkplug, and a prankster to keep things loose. And yet, feuding. More than half the teams dislikes the manager, and the roster includes 2 disrupters, 3 selfish players, and 3 unmotivated ones. Take what you will from that.


July 23-25 vs SEATTLE
One of the feuding teams from above, likely due to their record (43-54) and that they have zero team leadership. Plus, most guys don't like rookie manager Jose Alfonso. Mike Wapner is having a killer year (.325/25/67) and is coming off a Player of the Week award. Otherwise, they're 14th in runs for and 13th in runs against, with the fourth-worst rotational ERA in the AL. It's been a tough year, and for some reason owner Adam "The Unmerciful" Yamauchi, who wants PROFIT above all (and expects to lose about $10M) is a happy guy.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (4-3, 3.68) / Leon Casillas (9-6, 3.57) / Billy Heine (10-6, 3.70)
SEA pitchers: Amir Farland (4-2, 3.66) / Jimmy Stanford (6-9, 5.97) / Sean Easter (7-9, 5.04)

#101: LOSS 3-4 ... we can't make a 3-0 lead hold up, but we do injure their best starting pitcher...Hart does okay again, slowly building confidence
#102: WIN 19-7 ... 7-0 after three and 15-3 after five...Dunklee finally hits his 20th, and drives in 5...Casillas is okay, Powers is butt again (1.2 IP, 4 R)
#103: WIN 8-4 ... down 4-0, we score big late to make another bullpen cry for once...Powers throws well today, of course gets hurt

Still rolling, even after that tough first loss. Oakland dropped two out of four, so we're just a game out now.... Trade deadline is coming, and with the pen still waffling and now Ken Powers facing a possible long-term injury, it might be time for another trade.... McArthur is back from his suspension, but his replacement, Ian McGowan, raised his average 40 points in this series and drove in 8 runs.... ELSEWHERE: Across the league there was a one-hitter and a handful of two-hitters in this set of series.... Pittsburgh took a blow with star CF Brendan Glenn (a two-time MVP) going down for the season. They did immediately make a trade, sending a so-so reliever to KC for OF Rob Stremmel, who's struggling at the plate this year, but did hit 38 HR in 2038 for the Royals. But he is perhaps the worst non-age-destroyed outfielder I've ever seen in the bigs: Range=1, Glove=13, Arm=8. That range! He's accumulated a -14 ZR in just 116 major league games in the outfield. Impressive!

TRADE ANNOUNCEMENT: Without waiting for the Powers injury diagnosis, I went ahead and made a small deal that I hope will help the pen at least a little. We reacquire RHP Chris Mayer from Portland for IF Danny Holguin. Mayer, you may recall, was a part of the eight-player deal that brought us Alexis Mercedes. He's been decent for the Pioneers, with a 3.82 ERA and 30 K (with 9 BB) in 33 IP from 35 appearances. Holguin hit .268 with 4 HR for us as the main IF sub, and does bring good leadership and excellent fielding to the table. But he'd been made redundant with the development of Canning (and others) and the acquisition of Collins. Mayer will bring good intangibles and excellent control (much needed) to the pen. He's not a game-changer, but given what I was willing to offer in trade, probably about the best I could expect to get right now.

In other trade-ish news, everyone wants AAA pitcher Bobby Piccirillo all of a sudden. I'm open to making a deal, but I'm only getting offered broken dishes and worn out tennis shoes in return. No thanks, I've got plenty of those already.

July 27-29 vs LA ANGELS
I've been making fun of LA's supposed rebuild for a couple years now, what with holding on to 35+ year-olds and signing marginal washed-up free agents, but maybe they've figured something out. No, they're not going anywhere with a 49-53 record, but that's a solid improvement over two seasons of 60 wins. And they've figured out how to create a decent bullpen, third best in the AL. In fact, they're first in runs against, while only 10th in runs scored. Still, they've got a +39 run diff, so a sloppy offense (and next-to-last in HR, the real driver of modern offenses) has killed them this year. Jared Grose, ageless at 37, still can't catch his way out of a paper bag but is hitting .289 and is on pace for 35 HR. Future superstar 3B Tony Mendoza is going through a sophomore slump, but is still hitting at a 30-HR pace. Most of their better pitchers are 30+, however, so it remains to be seen what next year (and beyond) brings.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (6-5, 4.84) / Jim Kieffer (7-5, 4.13) / Rob Hart (4-3, 3.70)
LAA pitchers: Josh Singleton (7-5, 3.75) / Jeff Caraway (10-4, 2.86) / Bryant Owens (7-8, 4.00)

#104: WIN 3-2 ... Collins homers again, along with Mercedes...Jones only lasts 5, but is solid, and the pen gives up just 4 H and 1 R the rest of the way
#105: WIN 5-4 ... Hunter and Groff with 3 hits and a HR apiece, Kieffer goes 7, and Glass gives up one in the 9th but holds on...tied for first today
#106: WIN 3-0 ... Hart goes 8, giving up 4 hits with 12 K...Hullinger wakes up from the dead to hit just his 14th HR (had 50 last year)

With that, we've won five straight, and 11 out of 12. We're tied with Oakland for first, and guess who we play next.... Good thing I made that trade, as Powers had his elbow explode and needs Tommy John surgery. His career may be done.... OF Jesse Henkel will come off the DL near the end of our next series. Not sure who'll go down to make room for him.... ELSEWHERE: Brooklyn's Chris White is the first to 100 RBI.... Detroit is slowly catching up to Minnesota, and is now just 2.5 games behind. Only the AL Central and West divisions are marked by leads of less than five games.... league-worst Washington (33-70) is looking at a team-wide triple crown: last in runs scored, runs against, and team defense.
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:05 PM   #95
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July 30-31, August 1-2 @ OAKLAND
A four-game road series starts today, and we're tied for first (although the A's have two games in hand). It's no wonder that Oakland has been our divisional nemesis of late: they look a lot like us, with excellent hitting, good starting pitching, and a questionable bullpen. In my last post I brought up C Vinny Vargas, who is just tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .402 with 26 HR in 261 AB. Don't look past cleanup hitter Nick Robinson, tho: the injury-prone LF (has missed 100 games these last three years) is hitting .320 with 19 HR. SP Ricky Hose is once again the ace of the rotation. Despite all the good news, the team is openly feuding, with sources calling the clubhouse "in complete disarray." Most of the roster hates manager Robert Woodard, and most sources point to an unhappy pitching staff (none like Woodard, and all are seriously discontented right now) as the epicenter of the trouble. Stay tuned...

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (10-6, 3.58) / Billy Heine (10-6, 3.79) / Eric Jones (7-5, 4.72) / Jim Kieffer (8-5, 4.11)
OAK pitchers: Bill Casas (8-5, 3.96) / Tom DiFranco (7-8, 4.07) / Ricky Hose (14-4, 3.29) / Fernando Pena (4-5, 4.93)

#107: LOSS 1-5 ... disappointing to outhit them 10-9 and only have one run to show for it...Casillas throws complete game, for naught
#108: WIN 9-7 ... extra-inning thriller, with Mercedes and Hullinger doubling in runners in the 12th...bullpen goes 7 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 10 K...more injuries too
#109: LOSS 2-3 ... unusual low-run affair, with a patchwork lineup...Jones is unremarkable through six, Hose is just better
#110: LOSS 3-9 ... uuunnnnngh...Kieffer gets beaten like a rented mule

Well that was a disappointing POS series. Only late-game heroics saved the one win for us. Sigh.... McArthur sprains his knee, is out for two weeks. Carillo gets hurt too, diagnosis still pending. At least Henkel came off the DL and immediately hit a HR, but our outfield defense is looking very rickety if McA and Car are gone for a while.... Trade Deadline came and went and we decided to stand pat. I don't want to part with any more prospects, and no one was willing to sell low on a decent reliever.... Twenty-seven games the rest of August, all but three are against teams with losing records. If we can't play well this month, we're done.... ELSEWHERE: Detroit's on a 9-3 run, now just 1.5 behind Minnesota. Toronto has the biggest division lead in the game, 10 games over Miami.... Toronto's 33-year-old 1B, Preston Sorensen, a local boy as well, has packed a lot into his ten years in the game: 3 MVP, ROY, 7 Gold Gloves, 5 All-Star Games, 5 Silver Sluggers, and a World Series ring.


August 3-5 @ MILWAUKEE
A preseason pick for playoff contention, the Brewers find themselves in last place at 46-63. Near the bottom in runs scored, but sixth in runs against. Like us, the bullpen has been less than stellar, sitting 15th in AL ERA. Elderly catcher Tyler Markey passed 2000 career hits last month, and is hitting .328 and approaching 70 career WAR. Hall of Famer? Maybe.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (5-3, 3.33) / Leon Casillas (10-7, 3.68) / Billy Heine (10-6, 3.78)
MIL pitchers: Dan Lumsden (7-7, 4.10) / Nick Shockley (8-9, 4.27) / Brandon Jarmon (7-11, 4.01)

#111: LOSS 7-14 ... absolute garbage game, from everybody concerned...Dunklee injured as well, diagnosis pending
#112: LOSS 2-5 ... take out the fifth inning, and it's a four-hit shutout for Casillas. Alas.
#113: LOSS 5-6 ... that's more like it! Five late runs blow it for us, despite outhitting them 14-7

Ugh, what a disaster. Sad hitting, outrageously bad pitching, even our defense is looking tragic (down to 13th in team defense).... Injuries: Dunklee has a tight back, but needs to keep playing. I move him to DH so at least he's not in the field. Carillo, however, broke a finger and is out for five weeks. He'll be back mid-September, so can help if we're still in the playoff hunt by then. Right now, I'm not sanguine, even with Oakland struggling. We're back to three games out, but it feels like more, honestly.... ELSEWHERE: Washington is the only team without at least 40 wins, at 37-73.... SD's Gary Florence is still sailing along with a 1.61 ERA. The Padres are up on the Dodgers by 9.5 games.


August 7-9 vs CLEVELAND
Back home to play the last place Indians, and we need the home cooking. The best part of the Indians game is stolen bases, second in the AL. Otherwise, 17th in runs scored, 12th in runs against, and next-to-last in team defense. Best player Greg Tackett has had his usual injury-wracked season, but is in the lineup and hitting well (.297/15/55 in 300 AB), and 1B Nate Rogers is the other bright spot, with 29 HR and 93 RBI. Pitching is struggling, with only one starter working and ERA below 5.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (7-6, 4.71) / Jim Kieffer (8-6, 4.52) / Rob Hart (5-4, 3.96)
CLE pitchers: Tyson Murphy (8-10, 5.16) / Mike Cote (5-11, 5.48) / Danny Powers (7-9, 4.32)

#114: LOSS 7-8 ... a 4-0 lead evaporates late because of course...Henkel sprains a knee, dtd for a few days...bullpen tragic again
#115: LOSS 4-12 ... this time, a 5-4 deficit goes haywire thanks to another--repeat after me--bullpen meltdown
#116: WIN 7-2 ... Hart shows up today, and Stanley Ks 5 over two innings of relief

Four games behind Oakland now, so at least they're not hot. But we're 1-7 this month.... Bullpen purge time: Jimenez and Randolph take their 7+ ERAs off to AAA, and Ian Albring and Mike Messinger get the call. This is Albring's first call-up, and Messinger's third. Albring becomes our 16th reliever this year, tying the number we used in 2034, our first year.... ELSEWHERE: Texas SS Jon Salas has struck out a remarkable 37% of his at-bats: 135 K in 315 AB.... Gary Florence (SD) has 23 decisions (17-6) in 23 starts, to go along with a 0.87 WHIP and 7.2 K/BB ratio.


August 10-12 vs DETROIT
We're ice cold, and the Tigers are red hot: 8-2 and 14-5 recently.... Fourth in runs, AVG, and OBP, and ninth in runs against. Starters ERA is 10th, but the bullpen is pretty solid, fifth in the AL. Team defense is last.... C.J. Lee has been the star this year, at .294/37/107. Three other starters are hitting .300. Rookie closer Ramon Sanabria has been more than solid, with 35 saves and 72 K in 53 IP.

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (10-8, 3.76) / Billy Heine (10-6, 3.85) / Eric Jones (7-6, 4.56)
DET pitchers: Alex de la Roca (8-5, 4.57) / Lance Hansen (7-6, 4.98) / Alex Gomez (7-5, 5.93)

#117: WIN 4-1 ... the old Leon is back, scattering 4 hits over 6.1 innings...Mayer and Glass yield just one hit and K two...phew
#118: LOSS 4-5 ... Heine's solid start and 14 hits go to waste thanks to solo home runs in the 8th and 9th...at least no one died
#119: WIN 7-6 ... Hullinger belts two, including the game winner in the 10th...two 9th inning errors nearly kill us today

Well, they weren't pretty, but I'll take the two wins. Plus, Oakland hasn't been any better, so we're still 2.5 games in back.... McArthur comes off the DL tomorrow, and he'll be a welcome addition.... ELSEWHERE: Fun game: two days ago Oakland accused Toronto of stealing signs in a 7-1 Blue Jays win.... Mets new acquisition D.J. Breland has been a delight in his five starts: 5-0, 38 IP, 24 H, 38 K, 1.3 WAR. New York leads Brooklyn by 5.5 games.... Washington still hasn't won 40 games, sitting at 39-77. Perenially bad Houston is next, at 44-76.

AL WEST STANDINGS
OAK ... 66-52 ... --
HAW ... 64-55 ... 2.5
TEX ... 59-60 ... 7.5
SEA ... 54-63 ... 11.5
LAA ... 54-64 ... 12
HOU ... 44-76 ... 23
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Old 11-22-2017, 04:56 PM   #96
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August 14-16 vs BALTIMORE
A 15-9 July hasn't helped the Orioles get out of the basement, as they're still tied with the Yankees at 55-63, 16 games behind Toronto. Team defense is 2nd, and they've hit 161 home runs, 5th in the AL. Everything else is subpar: 15th in AVG (although 9th in runs, probably due to all those HR), 12th in runs against. Four starters have topped 20 HR, led by catcher Juan Jimenez with 34. Also consider Ayahito Yoshimoto, a former Islander prospect who has the lovely combo of an elite curveball with horrible overall movement. He's given up 34 HR in 107 IP this year, 2.9 HR/9.

HAW pitchers: Jim Kieffer (8-7, 4.72) / Rob Hart (6-4, 3.86) / Leon Casillas (11-8, 3.67)
BAL pitchers: Miguel Moreno (11-9, 4.35) / Adam Branch (8-5, 2.72) / Ayahito Yoshimoto (2-12, 6.46)

#120: LOSS 3-5 ... it's all on Kieffer this time, but we blow another lead, and suffer another injury...Baltimore managed just 5 hits
#121: WIN 8-4 ... Hart yields just 2 ER, and Hunter has 3 hits, Groff 2...McArthur knocks a 2-run HR in his return to the lineup
#122: LOSS 4-11 ... Casillas gives up 9 runs in 2.1 innings...we manage 0 home runs off the long ball gift machine that is Yoshimoto

We're now 4-10 in August, including 2-9 against teams with losing records.... McGowan suffers a concussion in the first game, is on the shelf for two weeks. That's six players on the DL currently, although two of them were suffered before the season, and weren't regulars, so maybe they shouldn't count.... We're now 14th in runs against; it's hard to believe we were top five earlier this season. It's also hard to believe that we're still in a playoff wildcard spot, if the season ended today. Magically, we're also just 3 games behind the A's.... ELSEWHERE: Pittsburgh is still in first place, but is 5-9 this month, and losing players faster than us: All-Stars Mike Blough and Jordan Shields are dtd for weeks, All-Star Brendan Glenn is out for the season, and three pitchers are also on the shelf.


August 17-19 vs NY YANKEES
The Yankees are part of the logjam at the bottom of the AL East, with just 1.5 games separating the bottom four teams. Currently, they're 57-63, in fourth place; let's see if we can't help them out a bit, eh? Injuries have killed them too: six batters are either on the DL or playing through moderate/major dtd plights. That's just killed their hitting, putting them in the bottom quarter of nearly every category, and forcing them to put a .192 hitter in the leadoff slot. Pitching has been average, but the one-time big spenders refused to re-sign star SP Tony Villarreul (who went to the hated Red Sox), and attendence has dropped well below last year's lowlight, from 29K to 23K per game. They're getting badly outdrawn by the Mets (43K), who are actually good, something the Yanks haven't been in over a decade. (The last time they had consecutive playoff appearances? 2020-22, all wild cards.)

HAW pitchers: Billy Heine (10-6, 3.87) / Eric Jones (7-6, 4.62) / Jim Kieffer (8-8, 4.77)
NYY pitchers: Pat Teer (7-7, 3.84) / Daniel Brooke (3-2, 5.21) / Rafael Aragon (0-0, 2.42)

#123: WIN 8-3 ... Mercedes FINALLY hits his 40th, Wiggins his 1st, and for once we make a game look easy...except: Heine injured, pending diagnosis
#124: WIN 10-1 ... Hunter with 3 hits, including his 45th double...Jones makes his monthly stellar start, and Groff suffers a dtd injury
#125: WIN 5-4 ... Kieffer Ks 12, the bullpen snuffs a late rally, and we even score two in the eighth to send everyone home happy

Quite shocking, really. Plus, more good news: Heine's and Groff's injuries are just dtd and nearly over. Phew.... Mercedes now has 40 HR, 100 RBI, neither a career high (he had 45/102 with the White Sox in 2035).... btw, Casillas' career high ERA prior to this season? his rookie season of 2032, when it was 3.48.... ELSEWHERE: Pitchers get pulled so fast these days that you never see anyone lead the league with, say, more than 3 shutouts. Two is the usual number. Which makes Gary Florence's year so special: he just tossed his seventh shutout, which is a freaking miracle really. He also still has a decision in every start: 25 starts, 19-6 record.... Pittsburgh has lost five straight, and their lead over the Cubs is down to a single game.


August 20-22 @ BOSTON
Off to Fenway to face the perennially cranky Sox (although they're up to "Unhappy" now, somehow), who must just manufacture reasons to be bitter. Yes, they're 58-64, and their bottom-tier hitting has been, oh, let's call it "problematic." And yes, they've wasted excellent efforts by their pitching staff, in particular the above-mentioned Tony Villaruel, who's 15-6 with a 3.86 ERA and 208 strikeouts. (The less said about the other off-season big bucks signing, Japan's Kaz Matsuoka, the better. He lasted 11 starts, with a 5.67 ERA, and may miss the start of next season with a blown out ulnar nerve.) Still, you're ahead of the Yankees, so quit griping.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (7-4, 3.72) / Leon Casillas (11-9, 4.10) / Billy Heine (10-6, 3.82)
BOS pitchers: Robby Liantonio (5-7, 4.68) / Ryan Galletto (6-4, 3.09) / Manny Gomez (5-6, 4.30)

#126: LOSS 3-13 ... every pitcher gave up more runs than innings pitched, quite a feat...Hunter blithely keeps hitting, 3-for-5 today
#127: WIN 5-4 ... so, so close: we give up four in the eighth inning but a last-second appeal to Cthulhu saves the day...for now
#128: LOSS 5-7 ... with a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the 7th, I duck out early..."What a fool I was"

Man oh man, is karma this nasty? And yet, as I keep saying, much to my amazement: Oakland is boffing it up too, and we're still just two games behind them. And 7.5 behind the Tigers in the wild card race, while just three up on the Marlins. Oh boy.... Ian Albring, brought up two weeks ago, has given up no runs. In just two appearances. Meanwhile, Jay "8.18 ERA in August" Yates keeps getting trotted out there like he's got blackmail photos on us. Is there a "use never" button to push?.... ELSEWHERE: Up 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the 41-win Washington Nationals, desperate for something fun to talk about, say "naah" to that and pull pitcher Antonio Morales with two outs while he's pitching a no-hitter. They do win the game, but not before his replacements give up six hits and five runs.... Don't look now, but both Brooklyn (one playoff app in 17 seasons) and New Orleans (zero in six) are both in the playoff hunt. I expect both to miss, somehow, and give the Cubs yet another one-and-done wild card playoff appearance.

......

Any racing fans out there? F1 in particular? Ever see your favorite team just look like rank amateurs during pit stops? (Ferrari pre-Schumacher were the gold standard for this, for example.) Some nights I look down at the dugout during the late innings and I swear I can almost hear the hamster wheels turning in my coaches heads.
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Old 11-24-2017, 02:50 PM   #97
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August 23-26 vs SEATTLE
Mike Wapner has been the only highlight in the Pacific NW this year. After four injury-plagued seasons, he's having a career year: .347/.450/.737, with 39 HR and 97 RBI. After him, it's crickets, with the team 12th in runs and dead last in AVG. They do hit a lot of home runs (7th) tho. Pitching is bottom-tier too, so maybe...just maybe...we can right the ship over this four-game stretch. At home too, where we're 41-25 (vs 28-34 on the road). We've taken 5 of 7 from the Mariners so far.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (8-6, 4.46) / Jim Kieffer (8-8, 4.71) / Rob Hart (7-5, 4.13) / Leon Casillas (12-9, 4.00)
SEA pitchers: Aaron Myers (12-12, 4.09) / Jimmy Stanford (7-12, 5.70) / Sean Easter (10-10, 4.78) / Ruben Alvarado (8-7, 5.09)

#129: WIN 8-2 ... Jones! Is above average! 7 IP, 2 R, 5 K...Mercedes knocks in two with a pair of doubles, and Hunter adds two more hits
#130: LOSS 2-8 ... Kieffer! Is truly terrible! Again! He does K 10, but in-between tosses a lot of softballs...Groff blasts his 30th HR and 100th RBI
#131: LOSS 3-4 ... Hart is mysteriously pulled after 5, and our pen immediately blows it up, then calms down for extra innings, and blows up again in the 12th
#132: WIN 2-1 ... Again with the quick hook: Casillas is stout through six but gets yanked...this time it's okay thanks to Hullinger's walk-off in the 9th

Somehow we scratched out two wins, especially that last one with just four hits. Like us, Oakland is also just scrabbling along, allowing us to stay 3 games behind; we're also 2.5 games up on Miami for the second wild card (7 behind Detroit for the first).... with our AAA team in KC having a rare off year, I'm probably going to heavily raid their roster for the September callups. Might as well get a look at a lot of guys.... ELSEWHERE: Padres ace Gary Florence is in the news again, this time as the first pitcher to reach 20 wins. Yes, it was another shutout (his 8th of the year).... Pittsburgh's injuries have cost them the division lead, as they're now a half game behind New Orleans. Yes, New Orleans! They're 75-55, which has already topped their previous best season of 67 wins. Go Zephs go!


August 28-29 vs HOUSTON
The Astros are locked in a pretty serious battle for the first overall pick with the Nationals (48-83 vs 45-83). It's been a struggle everywhere for the team: last in runs, next-to-last in runs against, and currently with five regulars on the DL. No starter is hitting over .268 (and only three over .250). Jay Russo has been stout in the rotation, and just kills us, but his prime years are being wasted on this franchise.

HAW pitchers: Billy Heine (10-6, 3.78) / Eric Jones (9-6, 4.37)
HOU pitchers: Jason Ray (3-6, 5.32) / John Fox (3-5, 3.97)

#133: LOSS 1-15 ... my head just exploded and I am dead...Heine's line: 3.2 IP, 14 H, 11 R, 7 K, 3 BB
#134: WIN 7-1 ... Jones pulled early again, but this time Messinger is on his game and looks great in 4 relief innings...Hunter closing in on 50 doubles

All that talk of playing bad teams in August, and having to feast on them to make a move. Well, feast on this: we swept the Yanks, and took 2 out of 3 from Detroit. Otherwise we've gone 6-14 this month against less-than-stellar opposition.... We're now 15th in runs against, and team defense is next-to-last. Don't get me wrong: I love good hitting and lots of home runs. But I always try to build my teams with pitching and defense in mind, so this season is particularly galling. Lots to do this off-season, lots to do.... One more series before roster expansion, and even though we'll play Texas through the 2nd, I'll probably wait until then to bring guys up.... We're 3.5 in back of Oakland, and just 2 up on Miami in the wild card.... ELSEWHERE: Bad news for the Twins, as 18-game winner Chris Kruse tore his rotator and is done for 10 months. They're still two up on the Tigers, but have NINE players on the DL.... Gary Florence got his 21st win, and surprisingly it wasn't a shutout. The Pads are 11 up on the Giants.... Close division races: NL Central, with New Orleans 1.5 up on Pittsburgh, 2.5 over the Cubs; AL Central, with Minny 2 up on the Tigers; AL West (see above); NL East, where the Mets are 5 up on Brooklyn.


August 31, September 1-2 @ TEXAS
Holding on to third in the division at 65-69, unable to make a move this month (12-14 so far), and looking at another season of what-ifs. MLB had them as a playoff contender, too. Their team stats look pretty good: 5th in runs and AVG, 7th in HR, pitching at league average (nothing to scoff at there, believe me), but they just can't put it all together. Injuries have hurt: two closers out for good, along with four decent-to-good OF on the DL. Help is on the way: top prospect Alex Mares was forced into the rotation this year, and has not looked out of place. Slugger Callum Hewitt, who will hit a TON of big league home runs one day soon, is tearing up A ball with 35 dingers, and there are a few more in AAA who should make the jump next year.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (7-5, 3.95) / Leon Casillas (12-9, 3.92) / Billy Heine (10-7, 4.29)
TEX pitchers: Jeff Sullivan (12-8, 4.22) / Lorenzo Rangel (1-2, 3.74) / Seth Purdy (6-11, 5.00)

#135: WIN 10-4 ... Hart looks good (8 IP, 3 R, 10 K), but our bats slumber until a 7-run tenth (4 hits, 3 walks, 1 HBP; all but one scored)
#136: WIN 8-4 ... we plate three in the 7th thanks to a pair of RBI doubles...Groff's error costs Casillas a pair of unearned runs, but he pitches well
#137: WIN 7-5 ... Heine=butt again, yielding 3 HR early, but the bats come ALIVE with 4 in the 4th and 3 in the 8th, and we put 21 runners on base in this one

At this point, you just shrug your shoulders. We've won four in a row, and Oakland got swept by Houston--HOUSTON!--putting us just a half game back. We're still 3 up on Miami for the second wild card, and guess who's coming to town next.... Thanks to a couple of days off, I skip Kieffer's spot in the rotation and boot him back into the pen. Mike Messinger take his place in the rotation.... Looking at the roster expansion. KC is finally back over .500 for the first time in months, and I'm about to gut their pitching staff. Sorry! Getting the nod are returnees Bobby Piccirillo, Cam Bornhoft, and Ricky Jimenez, along with Bart Raygoza (a vet who hasn't been MLB-good since 2032, but what the hey). Batters making the move up are IF Steve Douglas, and OFs Steve Hopkins and Dave White. All had turns in Hawaii earlier in the summer. OF Mel Carillo is coming off the DL in a couple of days too.... ELSEWHERE: Washington is the first team eliminated from playoff contention, you won't be surprised to know.... The Mets have dropped six straight and are now just 1.5 up on Brooklyn, looking for their first-ever division title. New Orleans continues to hold a precarious lead in the NL Central, and St Louis (72-64) has emerged as a late-runner for a wild card position. The Cards are looking for their first winning record since 2029.... AL pitching is down this year (league average ERA is 4.63, up from 4.49 a year ago), and the best individual ERA in the league is Toronto's Joe Henderson, at 3.01.... Our old friend Austin Collins, now with Portland, won NL player of the month for August after hitting .456 with 7 HR and 26 RBI.
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Old 11-26-2017, 12:08 PM   #98
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It should go without saying that September is our most critical month, but I'll say it anyway. After two early wins over Texas, we've got 25 games left in the season, only 9 at home. After Miami (next), it's off to Toronto then Tampa, before swinging by Oakland. That'll be our last look at the A's, as we round out the season against the rest of the division. If it comes down to the final days, I like that we've got a homestand against Houston to close the year. At least, right now I like it.

September 3-5 vs MIAMI
The rebooted Marlins are in their 25th year and STILL looking for their first playoff appearance. If they make it this year, it'll likely be at our expense. Currently at 71-64, they're 3 games behind us but have two games in hand. This series will be telling, for both teams. Sixth in runs scored, their real power is power: 203 home runs, second only to Toronto (with 222). They're also sixth in runs against, and sport a +38 run diff, thanks more to a solid bullpen than their often-rickety rotation. The top of the rotation has been solid and won 27 games; the bottom has an ERA near 7. We'll get a look at both ends. 3B Sergio Torres (.278/32/75) was just named AL player of the week; but 2B Dan Callender (.297/22/67) was just lost for the season.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (10-6, 4.29) / Mike Messinger (2-3, 5.71) / Rob Hart (7-5, 3.91)
MIA pitchers: Chris Keast (4-14, 6.99) / Jeff Heller (4-2, 5.90) / Matt Rubin (14-9, 3.79)

#138: LOSS 4-9 ... Jones takes the loss, but giving up 5 runs in the last 2 innings DOESN'T HELP...Oakland wins too
#139: WIN 21-1 ... a LOLfest as it's 15-1 after three...Henkel with 2 HR and 6 RBI, Groff and Collins 4 hits each...Oakland loses
#140: WIN 9-8 ... Dunklee and Henkel single home runs in the 9th to take the win...DRAMA!...Hart throws poorly, as does Kieffer in relief

Well that was nice. Plus, Oakland lost twice and WE'RE BACK IN FIRST PLACE, BABY! How long will it last tho.... Bart Raygoza throws two shutout innings in relief, making him my reliever of the year. Then he breaks his elbow and is out for six months.... Jim Kieffer is pitching his way out of town. This year he's gone from: closer; starter, throwing great; starter, throwing like ass; middle reliever; middle reliever designated as "avoid high leverage." Not so great in a contract year, Jim.... ELSEWHERE: San Diego (up by 11) has a Magic Number of 13, Toronto's (up by 7.5) is 17.... Minny's lead over Detroit is down to 1, while the Mets have a 2.5 game cushion over Brooklyn, and New Orleans is still one up on the Pirates, 3.5 over the Cubs.


September 7-9 @ TORONTO
Although they've slipped some lately (3-7 in last 10), they're still probably going to coast to the division crown, their 7th in the last 8 years. Hitting is around average (7th in runs, 10th in AVG), but they hit home runs by the bushelful: 224 to date. Pitching is third in the league, and they have the best defense to boot. Joe Henderson is 2nd in league ERA, and Joe Erkel has an outside shot at 300 K. Preston Sorensen has cooled off quite a bit from his sizzling first half, but he's still hitting .326/35/89. They've got ten guys either on the DL or suffering moderate-to-major dtd injuries, but most of their replacements are also performing. My only concerns for them would be that their prospect pool is poor, and their owner wants to drastically cut salaries and is not happy with a projected $28M shortfall.

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (13-9, 3.86) / Billy Heine (10-7, 4.40) / Eric Jones (10-7, 4.30)
TOR pitchers: Kevin Welch (6-2, 3.19) / Dave Henderson (15-9, 3.01) / Alex Cruz (2-3, 4.57)

#141: LOSS 2-7 ... too easy, as we muster just six hits and Casillas throws poorly...Oakland loses tho
#142: LOSS 3-8 ... Heine continues to be a mess, and Kieffer keeps getting tossed out there too for some reason...Oakland canceled, but we're tied now
#143: LOSS 4-9 ... man oh man what does it all mean...Jones can't get anyone out and we just roll over completely...Oakland back in first

The roller coaster continues, and now we're a half game out again, as Oakland takes two from Chicago. Still 2.5 up on Miami, also hitting a mediocre patch.... ELSEWHERE: Gary Florence (SD) has thrown two bad games in a row, and his ERA is now above two (2.06) for the first time all season. Wow.... Detroit's C.J. Lee has 47 HR to lead all of baseball. I thought our Alexis Mercedes would have 50 by now (he's at 41), but he's only hit 7 since the end of June.


September 10-12 @ TAMPA BAY
Eight games over .500 since the all-star break, the Rays have moved to 72-70 and are just 4.5 games behind us for the second wild card spot. They're subpar in team hitting and pitching, with only their 8th-place rotation ERA at or near league average. Seven batters are in double figures in home runs. Players are happy, and most like manager Dee Brown; owner Stuart Sternberg is happy with his projected $10M profit, but with a budget ranked 33rd in the league, fans shouldn't expect money to flow in the direction of buying players for wins next year.

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (3-3, 5.09) / Rob Hart (7-5, 4.23) / Leon Casillias (13-10, 4.05)
TBR pitchers: Jordan Sanchez (10-8, 4.71) / Wes Lipinski (10-11, 4.99) / Jimmy Wunderlich (5-13, 5.32)

#144: WIN 4-3 ... Henkel with 3 hits and another HR (25 now), and the bullpen makes me happy for one night at least: 4 IP, 3 H, 3 K
#145: LOSS 4-5 ... good start for Hart (8 IP, 6 H, 3 R) but Glass blows it in the 9th...just five hits for the good guys
#146: LOSS 0-1 ... another five-hit game, and just six for the Rays...Glass does it AGAIN, losing on a bases loaded single in the 10th

Nobody wants to win right now, so we're still just a game behind Oakland and 2.5 up on Miami; no change. Tampa Bay just 3.5 back now, tho.... Henkel wins player of the week, and now has 25 HR in 321 AB. Everyone else took some time off for most of this series.... Glass has convinced me to eliminate the closer position for the rest of the season. The consistent failure of the bullpen is entirely perplexing to me.... Josh Robertson and Eric Jones sign extensions this week; more about this later, but I did it to save money in the short term.... ELSEWHERE: San Diego's Magic # is now 7; Toronto's is 10.... SF catcher Adam Behling has taken over the NL batting title lead, at .351.... The Cubs are a solid team, top to bottom, but they're never going anywhere as long as SS Jordan Cruz is their leadoff batter. Once again, he's parlaying his speed and solid defense into an offense-killing .206/.282/.350, with 214 K. He leads MLB in strikeouts for the seventh straight season.


September 14-16 @ OAKLAND
Here we are again, with another critical series. We may be struggling, at 4-6 in our last ten, but Oakland is just 3-7. I'm sure we can help them out. They're 12th in HR, and 16th in bullpen ERA; but everything else looks good, and have a +109 run differential. They're #2 through #4 hitters have a combined 86 HR and are hitting .320. Six players are on the DL, including four pitchers, which hasn't helped their stretch run.

HAW pitchers: Billy Heine (10-8, 4.60) / Eric Jones (10-8, 4.60) / Mike Messinger (3-3, 5.12)
OAK pitchers: Matt Bienvenu (9-10, 4.60) / Ricky Hose (17-6, 3.45) / Bill Casas (9-9, 4.46)

#147: WIN 3-2 ... Henkel's 1st inning RBI-double stakes us to a 3-0 lead, and Heine hears footsteps and bears down for once
#148: LOSS 3-4 ... fourth straight game with 7 or fewer hits...Groff goes 2-for-4, now hitting .344, and just baaarely in the batting title lead
#149: WIN 12-11 ... Mess is a mess through 4, and the pen gives up six in the last 3 frames...but, 13 hits from the top 5 in the lineup saves the day

It wasn't pretty, but we're back in first place, by a half game. We're now 17th in runs against in the AL. Only Chicago has given up more (796 to our 767). Our bullpen has given up 75 HR, worst in the game, and is one of four units with an ERA over 5.... Groff is hitting .346, three points ahead of Minny's Peanuts Carter.... Mercedes has 40 HR, but just 2 in his last 124 AB.... ELSEWHERE: Toronto's Dillon Phelan tosses the second no-hitter of the season, a 3-0 win over Baltimore. The O's were the victims of the other no-hitter, back in May.... Brooklyn has slumped, and their playoff run looks to be about over, although they are only 4.5 games behind the Mets. Right now, the two NL wild card slots look like they're coming out of the Central, with Pittsburgh (84 wins), Chicago (82) and St Louis (81) in the hunt.
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Old 11-27-2017, 06:43 PM   #99
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So it's come to this. Thirteen games left, all against division opponents, with a combined record of 273-321. Thing is, Oakland is playing the same teams, however, so the record applies to them too. Our slate is: home vs Texas, road vs Seattle, road vs LA (four games), home vs Houston. For the record, we're 46-29 at home, just 34-40 on the road. Here are the wild card standings, bearing in mind that our record is 80-69, and we're a half game ahead of Oakland:

DET ... 86-61 ... +7.5
OAK ... 79-69 ... ---
MIA ... 75-71 ... 3
TBR ... 75-73 ... 4
BOS ... 73-74 ... 5.5

September 17-19 vs TEXAS
We've got to take advantage of this home stand and put some distance between us and Oakland. It's that simple. Texas is 72-77, playing out the string, but wouldn't they just love to ruin our season and get to a .500 season for the first time since 2034.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (7-5, 4.18) / Leon Casillas (13-10, 3.89) / Billy Heine (11-8, 4.52)
TEX pitchers: Edgar Ulloa (4-3, 4.66) / Luis Otero (0-3, 3.89) / Seth Purdy (7-12, 5.30)

#150: WIN 11-1 ... 17 hits, Wiggins just misses the cycle, and Hart throws a complete game 4-hitter, with 13 Ks...Oakland loses to Houston
#151: LOSS 4-7 ... Casillas is, frankly, hot garbage tonight, but Kieffer rolls in like he owns the place...dude, it's too late for you
#152: WIN 17-6 ... lots of batting stars tonight: Henkel 2 HR, Hunter 4 H and 6 RBI, Mercdes FINALLY hits a HR...Oakland swept by Houston

The best news here is that Oakland has now lost 5 straight and we're 3 up on them with 10 games left each.... Not much else to say except that there will probably be a lot of new pitchers in town next year.... ELSEWHERE: Minny is the first team to clinch a playoff spot, followed by Detroit. Toronto has clinched the East, and San Diego the NL West.... Angels 2B Travis Tanner has a 22-game hit streak going; would be nice to see someone top 30 games for the first time in a while (25 is the best this season).... Washington now has a stranglehold on last place overall, as well as the trifecta of 18th/18th/18th in runs/runs against/defensive efficiency. So, nowhere to go but up next year, right?


September 21-23 @ SEATTLE
Losers of 4 straight, probably the only thing Mariners fans are watching is to see if Mike Wapner can get to 50 HR (he's at 47). Casual baseball watchers might wonder how the 6'0", 195# right fielder, whose previous high is 23 HR and a .284 average, suddenly has nearly 50 bombs to go along with a .333 stroke. "Clean livin'," is all he'll say.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (10-9, 4.61) / Mike Messinger (3-3, 5.62) / Rob Hart (8-5, 3.98)
SEA pitchers: Aaron Myers (15-13, 3.94) / Jimmy Stanford (7-14, 5.57) / Sean Easter (12-12, 4.84)

#153: WIN 7-6 ... Jones is moderately ineffective through five, Henkel and Groff homer again, and Carillo gets hurt again
#154: LOSS 7-8 ... NO ONE on this team can pitch anymore, except Kieffer, for whom I have developed an unhealthy loathing
#155: LOSS 6-7 ... second straight walkoff win for the M's, but Oakland keeps losing too

Somehow we give up 21 runs in these games and move UP a spot to 16th in runs against. What a world.... Groff hitting .347, still leading the batting title race; Henkel has 28 HR now, not bad for a guy limited to facing mostly righties. Although, now that I look at it, he is hitting .400 (10-for-25) with 2 HR against lefties, despite having terrible ratings. Nothing makes sense anymore.... ELSEWHERE: Detroit's now a half game behind the battered Twins, and Miami's a game-and-a-half behind the A's for the second wild card. It's crazy in the NL, where the wild card standings show Pittsburgh (88 wins), St Louis (86), Chicago (85), Philly (84), Brooklyn and LA (82).... Toronto's Joe Erkel has 300 K, so yay for him.


September 24-27 @ LA ANGELS
Up to a respectable (of late) 76-79 and seeking a .500 season for the first time in five seasons. Their team stats suggest they've underperformed: 5th in AVG and OBP, 9th in runs, league-best in runs against, 3rd best team defense. And checking their expected wins...they should have 84 wins, not 76. Which would lead the division. So yeah, underperforming. Not sure why, tho. The only clues are that in a HR-driven league they rank 17th in the AL, and that they're 18-30 in one-run games. So they win big or lose close. Sounds familiar to me...

HAW pitchers: Leon Casillas (13-11, 4.09) / Billy Heine (12-8, 4.59) / Eric Jones (11-9, 4.69) / Mike Messinger (3-3, 5.50)
LAA pitchers: Greg Langworthy (13-10, 3.89) / Leonardo Vigil (11-10, 4.34) / Jeff Caraway (13-7. 3.27) / Josh Singleton (9-8, 4.02)

#156: WIN 3-1 ... good start: our ace is sharp, and although we get just 5 hits, we hold the Angels to 5 too...Glass gives up their only run
#157: WIN 5-3 ... Groff keeps hitting (now at .348), and Wiggins adds three b/c he reaaaally wants an extension...A's lose AND WE CLINCH PLAYOFFS!
#158: LOSS 2-4 ... Jones is no bueno, and Groff (dtd) and Wiggins (pending) are hurt
#159: WIN 5-1 ... we ran out so many pinch hitters for some reason, that we ended the game with 2 pitchers in the field...wtf

Well the good news is that we clinched a playoff berth, finally! We're also three games up on Oakland entering the final series of the season. The bad news is Groff has two dtd injuries, that I hope will heal completely by the time our playoff series start. Our Magic # is 1, so we just need a win or an Oakland loss. And Chris Wiggins has a pending injury, which I hope is short since he's been on fire (.363) this month.... Pitching (Jones aside) looked decent this series, against a pretty good-hitting team.... Groff's injury means I'll slide him to the bench for our final three games, and start Steve Douglas in his stead. Kevin Collins, who's been at second for most of the season, can hit but never did meet a ground ball he liked, will also go to the bench, in order to get more time for John Canning, a much much better fielder.... ELSEWHERE: Party on Bourbon Street, as the Zephs clinch their first ever playoff berth, and then the division. The Padres were the first to clinch, but every other NL spot is still up for grabs. More details below.... Detroit's C.J. Lee and Seattle's Mike Wapner are both at 48 HR. Can one reach 50? SD's Gary Florence has 23 wins, no one else in either league will reach 20. Toronto's Joe Erkel will finish with 309 K; Montreal's Rafael Maldonado is currently 2nd with 278.... Cubs closer Jack Shewmake and his 1.16 ERA (30 SV, 2.4 WAR) is done for the season. Likewise for Pittsburgh's all-star CF Mike Blough. Injuries have nearly derailed a nice comeback season for the Pirates. They'll likely earn a wild card spot, but they were looking like best-in-the-league for a while there.

PLAYOFF RACE UPDATES: Toronto has clinched the AL East, and Detroit leads Minny by a half game in the Central. They've both clinched a spot, regardless of who wins the division. Hawaii has clinched a spot, and will likely win the division. For the second wild card, Oakland has 83 wins, Boston and Tampa 80, and Miami 79 (with four games left). In the NL, New Orleans (!) and San Diego have clinched their divisions. In the East, NY has 91 wins, three ahead of Philly (88 wins). Pittsburgh has 90 wins and probably needs just one win to clinch a wild card. St Louis (87 wins), Chicago (86), and Brooklyn (84) are also still in the hunt, if just barely.



September 28-30 vs HOUSTON
Socring runs was the problem for the Astros this year, last in the AL. Frankly, this is one of the most moribund franchises in the game right now. Their last playoff appearance was in 2018; despite a low payroll, they've lost money five years running; they're never truly awful, so rarely get a top 2 or 3 draft pick. The prospect pool is 16th in MLB, right in the middle, but they don't have any truly standout players coming along. There's no money for free agents, fans aren't going to the games. Maybe they'll prove me wrong, but I don't see this team doing anything for the near- or mid-term future, at least.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (8-5, 3.94) / Cameron Bornhoft (0-2, 5.35) / Billy Heine (13-8, 4.57)
HOU pitchers: Nelson Gonzalez (9-16, 4.33) / Jonathan Caldera (9-16, 5.36) / John Fox (5-7, 4.07)

#160: WIN 1-0 ... Henkel's blast in the 4th is all the scoring...we got the good Rob Hart today: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 13 K
This win clinches the division; Mets clinch the NL East, Pittsburgh a wild card; Boston, Tampa Bay, and Brooklyn lose, and are eliminated
#161: WIN 6-3 ... Hunter goes 5-for-5, and Bornhoft gives up just one hit through three before getting hurt...Kieffer throws well, making a plea for a new deal
Philly wins, eliminating the Cubs and Cards; Miami wins, keeping 1.5 games behind Oakland; Minny is a half game over the Tigers
#162: LOSS 5-10 ... eh, I can't even be mad at Heine for pitching so poorly...the question will be, is he worth bringing back next year?
Oakland wins and claims the 2nd AL wild card; Detroit and Minny have 96 wins, but Detroit has a make-up game to play tomorrow

A nice finish to the season, 6-2, has me feeling a little better heading into the post-season. And we avoided the one-game showdown of the wild card, too.... Groff has a few days left on his dtd injury, so should be good to go. He also won the batting title and led the AL with a 9.8 WAR.... I skipped Casillas' start, letting him rest. Bornhoft looked good. Heine, however, did not, capping off a seriously disappointing season for someone making $23M.... ELSEWHERE: Best line of September, after the Yankees were eliminated from the post-season: "The New York Yankees have a legacy of losing." Man, how quickly they forget.... Detroit won their makeup game, and took the division by a game over the Twins.... Gary Florence finished 23-10 in 33 starts. He's got to be a shoo-in for NL Cy Young.

......

PLAYOFF OUTLOOK
We'll open the divisional series against Toronto, winners of the AL East. The Jays are nearly our exact opposites: average hitting, excellent pitching and defense. They were 7th in runs scored, 10th in AVG, and 12th in OBP. However, they did top all of baseball with 254 home runs. Their real strength is on the mound: fewest runs against, best rotation ERA, 4th best bullpen ERA. As the only thing we did well this year was hit the ball, this series will be strength vs strength. If our pitchers can just hold things together, we can pull this off. The season series went to Toronto, 4 games to 2. (We won 2 of 3 at home and got swept on the road.)

Taking a closer look at the Jays roster...Their first four batters in the lineup hit 122 HR...Opening Day starters on the left side of the infield, 3B Eddie Salgado and SS Dan Munoz, are out for the season; their replacements did well: 3B Erik Moretti hit .323 with 12 HR, and former Islander Tony Castro hit .282 at short...three pitchers on the opening roster are also out, but given this year's results, that doesn't matter...starter Joe Erkel led the league with 309 strikeouts, while Dave Henderson was 2nd in wins and ERA, and 1st in WHIP, FIP, and WAR. He's in the running for his fourth career Cy Young...1B Preston Sorensen (.320/41/109) turned in his sixth season with 40+ HR, and topped 8 WAR for the 5th time...Frankly, these guys are my pick to go all the way.


Next up: PLAYOFFS 2040!
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Old 11-28-2017, 08:12 PM   #100
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2040 playoffs

I previewed Toronto in the last post, so here's a brief look at Hawaii before the playoffs get started:
Toronto has the league's best pitching, and we have the best hitting. To me, the path to victory is twofold: get enough hitting to overcome their strong rotation, and get decent pitching top-to-bottom from our own shaky staff. I've shortened the rotation to four: Casillas and Hart were mostly good closing out the season, while Heine and Jones were not. We'll definitely need at least one of the latter two to do something positive if we hope to win. Healthwise, we're okay but not perfect. RF Chris Wiggins is done, and that hurts, as he was on fire in August and September. 2B Josh Robertson missed all but 13 games this season, and won't be back. Otherwise, we're good. For better or for worse.


WILD CARD GAMES
AL -- Oakland went full Islander and turned an early 3-0 lead into a 5-3 loss, sending Minnesota on to the divisional round. The Twins had just six hits (to Oakland's eight), but added nine walks, and got run-scoring doubles from Peanuts Carter in the 6th and Randy Kelly in the 7th. Minny now faces divisional rival Detroit.

NL -- Pittsburgh took an early lead and kept building on it, going up 6-0 before the Phils put 3 on the board in the 7th. The Pirates added the last 2 runs of the game in the bottom of that frame, for the final 8-3 score. SS David Diaz was the hitting star, going 3-for-3 and hitting a HR in the 4th. Mike Flynn lasted just five innings, but gave up no runs on 6 hits, while striking out 7. The Pirates will take on division mates New Orleans now.


DIVISIONAL SERIES
Game One: HAWAII (Leon Casillas, 14-11, 3.93) @ TORONTO (Dave Henderson, 18-9, 2.78)
"One game in and the Divisional Series already looks exhausting." That's the opening line from tonight's game report, and it's not wrong. After two quiet innings, Toronto turned two singles and a fielder's choice into a run in the third. In the fourth, with runners on first and third and two outs, Travis McArthur singled home Adam Groff, and the game was tied. The Jays turned around in the bottom of the fourth to plate a run on back-to-back doubles by Orlando Peres and Mike McConnell, and added another in the fifth on a Luis Torres solo home run. Toronto nearly added to their 3-1 lead in the sixth, loading the bases with nobody out on two hits and a walk. But two consecutive grounders erased runners at the plate, and Tony Castro's soft fly to left ended the threat. Hawaii clawed one back in the 7th when Jesse Henkel doubled, took third on a flyout to right center, and scored when 2B Henry Maldonado went for the out at first rather than the runner at home. The Islanders put two on in the 8th but couldn't score either one, and went into the final frame down 3-2. Pinch hitting for soft hitter Tom Rifkind, Nate Hullinger fouled off two pitches then drove one deep into the bleachers in left: tie ball game. The Jays got a runner to third in the 9th, but couldn't score him. Extra innings. In the tenth, Mel Carillo led off with a walk, and with one out Jeremy Dunklee down the line into right, scoring Carillo all the way from first. In their half of the tenth, Toronto's Tyler Gilliard walked with one out, and was followed by a Peres double. For some reason, Gilliard was held up at third. After a strike out, LF Ivan Aragon was walked, loading the bases. This time, however, there was no meltdown, as Pat Stanley got Torres to fly out softly to center, and the Islanders had taken game one, 4-3. If the Jays lose this series, they'll look to this game, and two moves in particular: holding Gilliard at third in the 9th, and removing the excellent Henderson after seven strong innings and just 85 pitches.
Elsewhere: Detroit scored 3 runs late to take game one from the Twins, 5-4. They did it again in game two, this time plating 4 in the 8th. San Diego split their first two games against the Mets, while Pittsburgh one both games at New Orleans, one a 2-1 pitcher's duel, the other a 15-4 blowout.

Game Two: HAWAII (Rob Hart, 9-5, 3.75) @ TORONTO (Joe Erkel, 17-7, 4.35)
Another extra inning game, a one-run contest, and a lot of familiar themes from this season. First inning, and we put two runners on, but couldn't score either. In the third, Mike Hunter singled, took second on a ground out, and scored on Adam Groff's bloop single into left. Aggressive baserunning paid off again. We put two more on in the fourth, but again couldn't bring either across the plate. Toronto finally got a runner to second in the fifth, but stranded two baserunners in turn. In the sixth, catcher Guillermo Diaz--in for the injured Alexis Mercedes--popped a solo shot into left field, and it was 2-0 Islanders. One swing, however, in the bottom of the seventh evened the game, as Orlando Peres brought home two with a shot to deep left center. After a quiet eighth, a double play erased a runner in the Islander half of the ninth, and did the same in the Jays half. Extra innings again! Nobody reached in the tenth for either team, but the eleventh was all drama. Jays closer Alberto Lopez ran the count to 3-2 to all three Islander batters, but induced two pop outs and a strikeout. In the Toronto half, Ivan Aragon singled, went to second on Henry Maldonado's sac bunt, and scored rather easily on a sharp single to right center. Series tied, and as close as a series can get after two. Both teams are getting excellent pitching thus far, but the Islanders suffered a blow when catcher Alexis Mercedes went out in the fourth inning; no word from the team yet if he'll miss any time.

Game Three: TORONTO (Dillon Phelan, 4-3, 3.90) @ HAWAII (Billy Heine, 13-9, 4.80)
Game three brought a new level of tension to an already hard-fought and close series, with the third one-run game and not a few hard feelings, in one dogout at least. Toronto came out swinging, with Moretti singling and stealing second on new catcher Diaz (still no word on the Mercedes injury, but it doesn't look promising), but Billy Heine struck out Preston Sorensen and Tim Manske to end the early threat. The Jays put two more on in the second, but Heine again shut things down with a Tony Castro strikeout. That made six Blue Jay outs, six strikeouts for Heine. Jeremy Dunklee got on for the Islanders in the second, but was stranded at second, while Heine recorded another strikeout in the Jays third, allowing no runners this time. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Hunter and Carillo singled, but Groff grounded out to end the minor threat. The fourth saw the Jays put another scare into the home crowd, this time when Manske doubled and took third on a Josh Jessee groundout. Peres then walked, but Mike McConnell popped out to first, and Sean Shelden tapped a soft grounder to Dunklee, who stepped on first and ended the frame. Dunklee was so fired up in the bottom of the inning that he doubled down the line in right but was thrown out at third trying to take the extra base. Too bad, since Henkel stepped up and singled, but was left stranded. What could have been... Things got heated in the fifth when a Heine fastball tailed in on Tony Castro, hitting him on the hand and putting him out of the game. After glares all around, things calmed down. Heine then struck out Maldonado, picked off pinch runner Ivan Aragon, and struck out Moretti, tipping his hat as he left the mound. Arrogant sod. Hawaii stranded another runner in the fifth, with Toronto pitcher Phelan looking in fine form. Home fans finally felt real pain in the sixth, as Toronto scored on a Manske double and a Peres single. A strikeout and a groundout ended the frame, but that Dunklee baserunning gaffe in the fourth loomed large now. Until... Bottom of the sixth, Dunklee gaps one into right center, but this time stays on second. With two outs, Jesse Henkel took Phelan's first pitch and went opposite field, putting it into the stands just feet from the foul pole, and the Islanders took a 2-1 lead. Jim Kieffer set the Jays down in order in the seventh, Pat Stanley struck out two in the eighth, and ended the game with by striking out Aragon looking. Islanders up 2 games to 1!
Elsewhere: Detroit swept Minnesota with a game three 4-0 shutout, ending an otherwise excellent season for the Twins. New Orleans copied the Pirates by winning two in Pittsburgh, one close and one blowout. San Diego outhit the Mets in four games, taking the third 3-0 and holding on for a series clinching 5-4 win at home in game four.

Game Four: TORONTO (Kevin Welch, 8-4, 3.45) @ HAWAII (Eric Jones, 11-10, 4.75)
(Before the game, Hawaii gets the word on Mercedes' injury: torn labrum, out for five weeks. He hit .282 with 42 HR this year. His replacement, Guillermo Diaz, hit .165 with 2 HR. But...he did have one in game two.)
The final game in Honolulu of this series, and maybe for the season, if the Islanders can't close it out today. Eric Jones goes for the good guys, hoping to erase the stench of an unfulfilling season, while the Jays are hoping Kevin Welch can keep their season alive. Here we go... In the first, Sorensen grounds into a double play, ending the inning. For Hawaii, Groff doubles but is left on second. Hawaii strands Hullinger in the second, but neither team puts runners on in the third. Toronto goes down 1-2-3 again in the fourth, and appears to be facing a highly motivated Eric Jones, who's given up just the one hit through four. In the bottom of the inning, Dunklee hits his fourth double of the series, this one a curving shot into left, and again wisely stays on second....which pays off when Hullinger works a 2-2 count on Welch then puts the fifth pitch into the left field seats. 2-0 Hawaii. After a groundout, Ian McGowan lines a double past Sorensen into right, and comes home when Kevin Collins hits the third Islander double of the inning. After four, it's Hawaii 3, Toronto 0. The Jays can't put anyone on in the fifth, while Hawaii adds to its lead when Carillo singles and goes to second on a groundout, then is driven home by Dunklee's single. All is quiet until the eighth, when Toronto finally puts another runner on with Jessee's one-out single, but he's erased by a fielder's choice, then reliever Pat Stanley strikes out Moretti to end the frame. Toronto manages to put two runners on in the ninth with two outs, and things get scary when Diaz lets a pitch get by him, bringing runners to second and third. But with a 3-2 count, Aaron Glass gets Sorensen to ground to second, ending the game and the series. It's an upset! Hawaii beats Toronto, 3 games to 1!

......

Well I did not see that one coming, really. But my prediction did hold true: We got good--no, excellent--pitching, and our hitting was just good enough to squeak out enough runs. Three one run games and a shutout in game four. The only cloud in the sky is the Mercedes injury. Diaz is our only catcher on the playoff roster now, so if he gets hurt...it'll be random guy from the stands behind the plate. Passed balls and stolen bases all around...Let's not think about that.

For now tho, it's on to Detroit. A 97-win team, they were good all year, and hung close to Minnesota, overtaking them for first when the Twins slipped some in September. They made their divisional series win over Minny look easy, too. Like us, they win with offense: 2nd in runs scored and HR, 4th in AVG, 3rd in OBP. Plus, they're a rare team that runs, leading the AL with 140 steals (compared to just 59 for us). They were 11th in runs against, with a straggly rotation that finished 15th in the AL with a 5.04 ERA, but the 7th best bullpen. Team defense was 15th.

Only one of their current starting pitchers had a regular season ERA below league average, and that was Raul Bravo at 4.42. He also led the team with 13 wins and 247 strikeouts. Closer Ramon Sanabria managed 12 wins and racked up 50 saves, with 98 K in 79 innings. Quite a rookie season there. At the plate, 1B C.J. Lee was the star, finishing .288/48/131. He went just 1-for-12 against Minnesota, so maybe...maybe...we're catching him in a downswing. RF Roberto Rivera led the team in hitting, and went .323/30/123 with 32 steals, while CF Chris Leonard put in .272/29/90, adding 24 steals. Leadoff batter Cory Hopkins established himself as a star in his first full year as a starter, hitting .315, with 56 doubles, 13 homers, and 35 steals. Then there's LF John Sheets, in the lineup due to an injury to Luis Acevedo and general mediocre play from Cameron Kerr. Sheets started the year in A ball, at Lakeland, spent most of the summer at AA Erie, before getting into 41 games for Toledo. Called up in August, he ended up hitting .345 with 4 HR in 55 AB, and was the MVP of the Minnesota series. Not bad for a 25-year-old former 8th round pick.


Next up: AL Championship Series Time!
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